More students are turning away from college and toward apprenticeships
College seems to have ~3 uses from students' perspectives:
1. A trade school for technical professionals who actually need specialist education (scientists, engineers, lawyers, doctors, etc.)
2. A finishing school for the elite
3. A blood sports arena for the brilliant to complete for professorships (almost all of whom will lose and be saddled with 6 figures of debt and 7 figures of opportunity cost)
A lot of people have been tricked into going to general education and liberal arts college programs (the finishing school parts) without the money to pay in full under the guise of "becoming a lifelong learner" or something, and this completely cripples them in the future when they could otherwise have had great careers in fields that don't truly need the education you get from a college.
It's good that students are turning away now. The market is correcting itself.
It also grows the intellectual souls, exposing people to far more depth of thought. It also builds professional networks. If a person is smart enough to receive it, more education is almost always good.
Of course money is a factor, and schools have gotten insanely expensive. I’m glad to hear that more people are finding alternative routes - it shouldn’t be that everyone needs college because quite frankly many career paths don’t require it and many aren’t smart enough for it (and thus the debt will be crushing).
But I wouldn’t dismiss its value in being taught how to think. I wish there was a bigger focus in physics, math, and philosophy for those who didn’t know what to do - learn one of those and you can do just about anything.
I think you are referring to something on one hand very valuable, on the other hand it's very easy to graduate college without learning that, and I think colleges themselves in recent decades are pivoting away from.
A hundred+ years ago when "almost nobody" went to college, college was a place for those hungry and willing to sacrifice for intellectual growth. Nowadays college is a baseline consumer good that "almost everyone" is expected to consume, and having the desire for intellectual growth as a prerequisite just wouldn't scale.
I also think that some of the classes I took (20 years ago, at a state school) would not be taught this way today. Eg I had a class that really critically analyzed native American cultures. Today the class would be considered racist, it would have to a priori be an admiration of those cultures, rather than a critical analysis. Ditto even on a class that focused on Soviet dystopian literature taught by an emrigre.
The good news is that its much more accessible now days to learn how to think outside a college system. If that's what you are hungry for, college is perhaps even your least likely bet.
I say this as a person with 3 degrees. Higher education worked for me because I made sure it did and colleges were more old school then than now.
> I had a class that really critically analyzed native American cultures. Today the class would be considered racist, it would have to a priori be an admiration of those cultures, rather than a critical analysis.
It's amazing that now we're getting hit from both directions in this regard. The left would like minorities treated with kid gloves, and now the right wants to muzzle schools that would say anything critical of white people or positive about minorities.
I don't know how we got to this place, but damn, it sucks. The 90s seem so quaint by comparison. I'm already looking back and thinking that 80s/90s were a really special era. After a bunch of crazy shit, and before the next wave. Not perfect, there were some incidents, but it just pales in comparison to what happens every year now.
The 80s and the 90s do seem in retrospect to be exemplars of what I consider the college experience.
By the end of the 80s, the canon wars had been fought and lost, so any topic was fair game for study. In loco parentis had been gone for a while. Ethnic boundaries were all but gone, and class boundaries were disappearing as well as more people went to college.
By the time the 90s rolled around university life seemed to be the free-wheeling intellectual pursuit with a healthy dose of libertinism that I considered the college experience. I grew up in that era, so maybe I am just a product of it. But there seems to be something pure in that model of university life.
In later years after the 90s, taboo subjects became more common, in loco parentis returned under the guise of limiting legal liability, tuition costs made class differences more stark, and most sadly of all I think we've lost a bit of the universality of the human experience thing, and focus too much on identity and how that divides people.
I suspect in the 80s the job market was acting like having a degree implied a graduate was in the top 5% of humans by ability. Now it'll be more like top 33%. That is getting dangerously close to signalling that someone has a warm body as opposed to an unusually bright mind.
I suspect that is the driver behind a lot of the points you make - it isn't possible for universities to maintain a little culture of intellectual curiosity off on the side when double-digit percentages of the population are moving through them.
Culture is a shared fiction of unity and greatness that enables great civilizations to overcome otherwise inevitable tribal warfare. So Native Americans and Pilgrims sat down together for a Thanksgiving feast with Turkey and mashed potatoes. Should we teach this to children despite there being more to the story? Well it depends, do we want descendants of Pilgrims and Native Americans to sit down for a Thanksgiving feast today, or do we prefer various 2020-style riots to go on? That's the original political correctness, prioritizing getting along over being right. It's not wrong to tell kids that being a boy or a girl doesn't matter, just follow your dreams. Some day they will discover that it sometimes does matter, and that being born 200 years earlier would have sucked. But by then they will develop good habits like striving for individual equal treatment over tribalism. Where left gets it wrong is treating children like adults when it comes to gore and sexuality and adults like children when it comes to free speech.
> Where left gets it wrong is treating children like adults when it comes to gore and sexuality and adults like children when it comes to free speech.
And denying the primacy of objective reality (as best we know it, subject to intellectual inquiry and criticism) over subjective experience (which they say is inviolate and unquestionable).
The issue in a nutshell is that folks use the language of objective reality, science, and nature, as a political cuddle and then deny doing it. When that can stop we can actually sit down and have an adult conversation.
> folks use the language of objective reality, science, and nature, as a political cuddle
Did you mean "political cudgel"?
I agree people in power always have a collection of "facts" they pull out to "prove" things. Public arbiters of conversation (op-ed columnists, bloggers, etc.) ought to call those into question as a matter of routine.
Haha, what a typo! That's funny, yes.
We're in the midst of epistemological de/re-territorialization between objective and subjective and frankly, when I hear or read people frame their opinions as fact/truth/reality/nature/science I instantly shutoff and encourage others to do the same. Specifically, I'm an anti-reificationist and if I catch a wiff of people reifying their symbolic universe, they instantly lose my respect.
Sorry I don’t mean to be following you. I have been trying to find a way to actually agree with you on something.
I found it! We are both absolutely rigid when it comes to reificationism. We happened to move to different sides of the political spectrum is all. It’s fascinating to me. I was a normal person not knowing politics 1.5 years ago. I got radicalized mostly in 2022 to the left.
Thanks for teaching me that word and amazingly I not only whole heartedly agree with everything you’re saying. I’m interested in your insights. Sorry if I behaved rudely to you in other comments. Im autistic and I forget to be an empathic person sometimes.
"Where left gets it wrong is treating children like adults when it comes to gore and sexuality and adults like children when it comes to free speech."
This lie that you are telling to justify banning transgender people is going to get the love of my life killed, if you're not careful.
I repudiate the narrative that supporting diversity of gender expression is sexualizing children, and will do everything I can to see you and your people lose in the court and at the ballot box.
Nothing in that person's comment supports "banning transgender people," and I resent that you are trying to twist that person's words.
thank you for saying this.
"But by then they will develop good habits like striving for individual equal treatment over tribalism."
Do you think there is absolutely no "tribalism" right now, in the public debate?
as I understood it the whole thing with pilgrim's natives and turkey never happened and that thanksgiving was a post civil war holiday that somehow turned into that.
> and now the right wants to muzzle schools that would say anything critical of white people or positive about minorities.
I don’t think this really true. It’s the sort of thing you’ll read on Reddit comment threads and breathless NPR article titles but when you actually dig into the story it ends up being a boring story about, sticking to facts and not some alt-history histrionics.
Almost like Sneetches (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Sneetches_and_Other_Storie...)
Contention creates a magnet for nonelastic investment in things monetary as well as social will. A surveillance economony that creates opportunity like today's commercialized internet would have been a wet dream for Sylvester McMonkey McBean.
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As an uncle told me many moons ago:
Do more in college. Write a rock opera, spend a week curled up in the union learning about black holes, be good enough to tutor.
Don't just graduate with nothing but a taste for bad jazz and cheap beer.
A lot of CS students need to be told this as well. If you take the bare minimum CS so that you can double major in business, don't come crying on here that CS didn't teach you anything about programming lol.
Double major in business, bleach. I was math & cs and I wanted to do physics too.
Love this thought. I’d also throw in that doing well in college can be as simple as trying tons of new experiences with the absurd low risk entailed with being a kid with almost total freedom and almost 0 real responsibility. Make friends, make memories, but most of all: make lots of mistakes!
Making mistakes is one of the most important parts of college, but sadly another one that's being torn down by over-zealous administration and campus policing.
My father went to a small, rural school whose local police force generally took the approach that as long as it didn't hurt anyone "At worst, a night in jail and no record of the arrest." Even for what would be considered distribution of hard drugs now.
When I went to school, students got a slap on the wrist for burning a hole in their dorm floor with thermite.
10 years after I went to school, a student was charged with a terrorism offense for making a dry ice pressure bottle and tossing it out of their dorm window as a joke.
And as near as I can tell, it's gotten stricter since. See: bitching about Harvard's dismantling of independent fun.
"Make lots of mistakes" isn't feasible if it ends up on a permanent record.
It’s a bummer cause it’s so short sighted in how it cripples creativity and open minded thinking. Fear has never been a motivator for almost anything good.
Dumb example I’ll share for a laugh is when I went to university (graduated 2013) they would put you on the sex offender registry for peeing outside and even for going in the wrong gendered restroom. One time I got obliterated and desperately needed to puke. But I was in a dorm where every other floor had your gender’s bathroom. Given my luck I was on the wrong floor. So my choice was potentially end up a sex offender for puking in a girl’s restroom stall or puke in the stairwell thus stinking it up for weeks. Guess which choice fear motivated me to make. Sorry about the stairwell, guys.
lol what? this isn't high school bro.
Police record, not some hidden college record
Or, as cousin Melchior put it, 'anything other than a first or a fourth is wasted'.
(Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh. Not sure how internationally read it is, but a worthwhile classic. British degrees are classified from firsts to thirds (via upper and lower second class honours) - but the story is (initially) set at Oxford, which at the time awarded fourths.)
The BBC's serialisation of Brideshead, starring Jeremy Irons (Charles Ryder), Diana Quick and Anthony Andrews, was a huge hit with students when it aired in October 1981. The TV room in the Students Union was full every Sunday throughout the whole series. As for Charles's cousin Melchior John Gielgud, who played Charles's father, delivered some classic lines including this rejoinder to Charles's request for a loan - "Hard up? Penurious? Distressed? Embarrassed? Stoney broke? On the rocks? In Queer Street? Your cousin Melchior was imprudent with his investments and got into a very queer street - worked his passage to Australia before the mast."
Seconded, and now you say it I'm wondering if the line I quoted might actually be (only) from the series. The book is excellent, but it's not so funny, or with such snappy dialogue (of course, really, of course TV writers have to add that sort of thing).
'[Puts book down, objecting to Charles also occupying himself] I do think you might talk to me - I've had a very exhausting day. Entertain me. Take me out of myself.'
Thanks for the reccomendation! I am a bit confused though. Is 'a first' the top score on an exam or like a suma cum laude?
Free link to the book here:
People sometimes talk about it in terms of exams in the sense that they'd achieve a first overall if that exam was 'it', or that it brings their average up etc. - but strictly speaking you can only achieve first class (or any other) honours for the degree as a whole. It's commonly (but not necessarily) >70% overall. Equivalent to achieving some high GPA range.
American translation: graduating with anything other than a 4.0 or a 1.0 is wasted.
Oh got it now, thanks!
Here in the US we have a saying of " C equals Degree", so kinda the exact opposite of the UK saying. Strange!
I have always known it as "C's get degrees" but that's sort of a crass expression, not really the equivalent of the quote which is presented as "life advice" for the enrichment of those that receive it.
"C's get degrees": The bare minimum to get the credential is the optimal use of resources.
"You want either a first or a fourth. There is no value in anything between.": Either excel at school to maximize your achievement or don't worry about your grades and simply pursue whatever comes your way from the opportunity to be there to enrich your life.
Amusingly along those lines, I once had a prof in my Ph.D. program tell me that if I was getting all A's in my coursework, I was doing it wrong. (I.e., not spending enough time on research.)
This is pretty common at other places - my PhD advisor was exasperated that a polymer chemist would get an A in Physical Chemistry II, when I had a national lab collaboration to work on, a fellowship to write, and a first-author paper to get out the door.
In retrospect? Yeah, I probably should have taken a B and finished relevant things faster. I have almost zero use for my understanding of the mathematic accounting of the particle-in-a-box.
Of course in grad school a C is a failure, so the wiggle room is slightly less generous.
Talk about grade inflation…
Back in my day it was “Ds get degrees”.
Or rather between them, yes. (Or a bit lower than 4.0, that's perfect right? Or do you not have to get full marks on every exam to achieve that?)
C is often the lowest passing grade — so, same saying really.
4.0 would mean that you got a letter grade of "A" in every class. In the US, that usually means you got a final grade of 95% or higher in every class.
In high school maybe. All my stem classes in college were graded on a curve. First exam freshman year was physics. I walked out thinking I failed. There were questions I did not answer. Later that night they posted raw scores. Mine was 48 pts out of 100.
I was ready to withdraw and reconsider engineering as a major.
Later still they posted the cut offs. 40 was the cutoff for an A. Avg was 36 and the cutoff for a B. My 48 was the 4th highest score.
I would have preferred the British system
95? I have never seen that. 10 point seems to be the most common (A=90+).
At my school, 90, 91, and 92 were considered an A- and worth only 3.7 grade points.
That’s a little more normal. In my state Grades 1-8 ran on a 7pt scale. A was 93+, B was 85-93
First = highest undergraduate degree classification in the British system.
Universities in the UK treat a degree from the US with a 3.7 or 3.8 or higher GPA as equivalent to a first according to Wikipedia - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/British_undergraduate_degree_c...
"First" means "first class honours" aka. the highest designation of degree. The US equivalent is summa cum laude, yes.
It's not quite equivalent in that it's more standardised and every university uses it. I think it's more accurately equivalent to 3.x GPA or above; probably you could find graduate entry requirements (though most are probably fine with at least a 2:1/upper second) stating exactly that as their equivalent admissions criterion.
Let me rephrase that. An Oxford first is equivalent to summa cum laude from an Ivy League.
Yes, the standard for graduate admission around the world (and also other things, like undergraduate research awards in Canada) is upper second.
Not the same — Oxford first means top third of the class, roughly. Summa at Harvard is top 5%, a much higher bar.
Yes. I think the top 1/3 of Oxford undergrads are on par with the top 5% of Harvard undergrads.
This is not true of other places which award Firsts.
Your first sentence is interesting, why do you think that?
Harvard takes in a lot of students on the basis of athletics, legacy, and other non-academic considerations. While I've seen students admitted to specific colleges in Oxford due to family ties, that has always been a matter of which college a student attends; I've never seen someone get in that way who wasn't already going to be admitted to the University on academic grounds.
If you look at the top 1/3 of Harvard students who deserve to be admitted on academic grounds, you end up with a much smaller pool than "top 1/3 of Harvard students".
It’s not like the legacies that get in are unqualified. You can look at any of their resumes, they still have stellar grades, standardized test scores, extracurriculars and more. Legacies aren’t just dumb rich people, their parents just went to that top tier school (and I’m sure you can imagine just having parents that highly educated can be a leg up in how they raise you their entire life). In fact, legacies can often be overqualified and should go to a more competitive school but are guided into the legacy school by their parents / guidance counselors.
At Harvard, about 12-15% of recent classes are legacy. Zero are admitted on the basis of athletics alone, that is literally the tenet on which the Ivy League was founded.
Even if you were right, though, it’d be an odd take — even if 25% (or 50%!) of Harvard students were admitted noncompetitively, they would simply not be part of the top 5% of Harvard students? Like they’re not diluting the top 5%, they’re just not in it.
I stand by “top 5% of Harvard” is a higher bar than “top 1/3 of Oxford”. But I will grant you that these are all based on GPA anyway, a rather noisy measure of even academic ability, let alone anything else we might care about.
I got a 2:1 from Imperial, guess what I think is on par with top 5% at Harvard ;)
I'm only kidding, but more seriously it's certainly not all equal, and few are really in a position to compare any two, nevermind several - it's a bit of a joke that we then make 'a 2:1 in an engineering or related subject' or 'at least 3.5 GPA' or whatever a requirement as though the institution and cohort doesn't make a difference at all.
I think it's reasonably widely-read in the United States, though I haven't read it myself.
Probably more are familiar with the British Granada Television adaptation, which was shown here on the Great Performances series on PBS. I don't know how well that conformed with the book.
Re: critical analysis. I agree with you that inconvenient truths now get muzzled because they don’t fit an acceptable meta-narrative. This is very problematic for society and when taken to the maximum, can lead to thinks like Cambodia’s attempt at restarting society by killing all those who didn’t fit the model they were looking for.
> If that's what you are hungry for, college is perhaps even your least likely bet.
I’m not sure what one would be hungry for that couldn’t be met in college. Analyzing cultures for weakness? Doesn’t sound like a particularly meaningful or commonly needed study.
Re second point, I mean something else.
200 years ago I had to go to university because why? That's where the books and smart people were concentrated.
So I would pay a lot of money and physically relocate myself to access those books and people.
Now? I can study online, I can read, I can converse with super bright people of my chosing without the friction and limits of doing that in a college environment.
There's a two edged sword here, both for the university student and the independent learner
Learning in a structured environment provides access to the orthodox in the field of study. This can be very valuable to limit unnecessary exploration of blind avenues (there is of course such a thing as necessary exploration of blind avenues)
For those who progress through the academy, the risk is that they become narrow thinkers
For those without access to the structure, the risk is that they become cranks
These aren't absolutes, but they are observable trends
[Edit: are —> aren't]
I think pre-U education should focus on didactics and metacognition, philosophy, logic and the scientific method. To really focus on the thinking behind the thinking, to never do it by accident.
University should not be separate from earlier forms of education, things that are university like should also filter back into to high school and middle school.
As a borderline-crank myself, I think we need more folks with crank tendencies and more folks with a solid scientific approach. We have the most minds right now, amazing capabilities but at the same time, a narrowing Chesterton's Window (I know, Overton Window, :)
We should push kids harder in the ways that matter and less in the ways that is too soon. Grinding arithmetic and non-contextualized history is a multilayered waste of time. I am very pro both of those subjects, just the way we teach them an the timing is way off.
You just end up kicking the can around the same problem. While college education being dumbed down is a typical topic, the exact same is earlier education - and also for the exact same reason. Here  is an 8th grade exam from 1912. Good luck!
The issue isn't some failure of education, but the fact that people are different and have different skill sets. And as education came to be expected to be something everybody goes through and in a roughly similar fashion, the inevitable decline to the lowest common denominator was inevitable.
 - https://bullittcountyhistory.org/bchistory/schoolexam1912.ht...
How dumb is your expected audience if that test required a "good luck!"
It's like basic math....
>it’s like basic math
Did you continue to read it? Because it covers other topics. Without using the internet, can you name the eligibility requirements of the Gov. of Kentucky? How about five county officers and their principle duties?
I think your initial response belies a deeper problem we struggle with. Our attention span has shortened and social media has biased us towards more course interactions.
I would say that knowing eligibility requirements of the governor of Kentucky without using the internet is useless information to everyone that doesn't work in the Kentucky election office.
The useful skill is being able to find the information on the Internet if you want to run for governor of Kentucky. If you grow up in Kentucky learning it once in seventh grade is sufficient so you know it's a possibility, but will most likely never matter again after that class.
Why do we need this stupid metric of "will I ever use this"? That is a recipe for ignorance. You will never be able to handle novel circumstances if you limit your knowledge to shit you think you will need.
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True… but trivia isn't necessarily knowledge
Trivia is defined as “information of little value.” So who determines what is trivia and what isn’t?
Why learn math when we all carry a superhuman calculator in our pocket?
Because it does computation, math is understanding the problem. Even with things like Wolfram Alpha to handle integration and derivation.
Without an understanding of math you can only cargo cult problems. You can get away with being lazy with computation with no real issur but only if you understand the underlying theory.
That's all shit that I am sure I would be able to answer if I had paid attention in class. Which is what they are trying to test.
Obviously the entire test is about what’s taught in class, but distilling it down to the single dimension of “basic math” in your dismissal was what I found interesting.
Because it was the one area I was familiar with. The others... not so much. But if I was in classes contemporary to the test and had paid attention, I probably would have.
I think that was part of the OPs point: in general, we aren’t familiar with all that they were testing for, so cherry-picking the domain you feel comfortable answering kinda proves their point rather than negating it.
Not that it really proves anything in the larger scope they seemed to imply. At least, not anymore than losing on the old show “are you smarter than a fifth grader?”
All of us talking here are probably adults, probably substantially higher performing on average, living in the age of the internet where information for study can be trivially obtained, and discussing a test that was a benchmark for 8th grade education. What percent of incoming 9th graders today do you think could perform at all reasonably on that test?
Most people know that college education has become dramatically "simplified", but fewer seem aware that this is also true of nearly all of our education systems. And it's all for the same reason. When education was not required nor expected, what education that did exist was able to excel and push a group of people who genuinely wanted to learn in ways that are not really possible today, outside of things like elite preparatory academies.
And I think this lesson is extremely important when beginning to think about how education might be reformed. It's easy to say that secondary (or even primary) education should be more sophisticated, without considering the implications of that on the student body. You can't really have widespread exceptional education standards and the expectation that most people should be able to achieve those standards. This is why reforming education is a far bigger task than the current idea of 'throw more money at it' could ever solve.
 - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Educational_attainment_in_the_...
Most of the math I could do pretty straightforwardly though I'm unsure of the phrasing in a couple of cases.
Grammar I could probably have done in eighth grade but I forget some of the terminology.
Areas like history, I'd know a fair bit (as an American) but there's a lot of historical essentially trivia that I wouldn't know though may have known at one time.
Some of the double letters and other things in the spelling I'd probably get wrong. That's what red squiggly underlines when typing are for.
The self-taught path can also lead to another kind of deficiency, which is someone who knows all the concepts but doesn’t know how to talk about them efficiently. This ends up being the type of person who spends 5 minutes describing a component of their design where items are stored based on a key and can be looked up by that key so another process can stash and retrieve those things rather than recompute them but the things only stay stored for a certain amount of time or based on some other criteria like how much space is available or how frequently they are fetched and—- and you cut in and say “so a cache.”
I used to have a particularly brilliant (not sarcasm; he really was brilliant) colleague who “invented“ lots of things that had already been invented and would have saved a lot of time by just bouncing things off others who would say stuff like “oh, so it’s RPC” or “oh, so like a distributed queue” and stop him from reinventing the wheel.
Now we have LLMs which can name concepts by description!
Your colleague can dump their thoughts into such a system and quickly get back the shibboleths and the foundational papers. Now is the best time to be a self-taught genius.
I think reimplementing that stuff is probably a big part of why you felt they were so brilliant, though - once you've built your own way up the tech tree, you can see the whole tree, and move around it at will, drawing disparate parts into solving whatever problem you have right then.
No, the brilliance was evidenced elsewhere. The fact that this person was unaware of (or didn’t appreciate) prior art and had to invent everything from scratch when it could have been pulled off the shelf wasted a lot of time debugging and running into mistakes that other people had already run into and solved. His brilliance meant we succeeded in spite of this stupid habit.
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> Learning in a structured environment provides access to the orthodox in the field of study.
That's a trope of critics, but not what happens. Have you studied in college? They (almost always) cover a very wide range - much wider than you will discover on your own - and the focus is to teach you to think critically and be able to examine them yourself. They are not there to teach you information, or that is secondary (at least in social sciences and humanities).
Also, you omit other enormous benefits, including personal tutorial - including guidance, feedback, etc. - from leading experts and PhD students, not to mention a room full of peers studying the same things.
So not only have I studied at a university (a canonically prestigious university FWIW), I have also had the good fortune to work closely with academics and researchers in my career.
I did not exclude other benefits of a university education in my statement, I simply highlighted one of the things that sets it apart from learning in isolation.
How wide a range of subjects one might discover on ones own is arguably broader (although of course not precluded by an academic education either)
I am largely self taught in CS (my degree was in another subject), but that had not prevented me from having multiple patents and having published academically too.
There are many other factors at play, and where and how you are educated is only one of them.
> How wide a range of subjects one might discover on ones own is arguably broader
The original claim was about concepts beyond an orthodoxy, but whether concepts or subjects, it's very unlikely you will discover on your own more than a university full of domain experts who spend lifetimes discovering and studying these things. It's not remotely plausible.
> I am largely self taught in CS (my degree was in another subject), but that had not prevented me from having multiple patents and having published academically too.
Good for you. It doesn't mean you wouldn't have been better off learning CS from experts - especially with all your talent - nor is it a representative sample of education. Most people who don't go to college have no hope of matching its benefits on their own.
Also, your field of study was CS. I don't know about orthodoxy taught in CS, but again, in humanities and social sciences, what's taught is how to develop your own thinking. For example, parroting this orthodoxy (and rhetoric) of the anti-intellectual reactionaries is not a sign of well-developed critical thinking.
Learning from experts is unambiguously good.
College isn't only learning from experts though.
I don't know, trying adding 2 and 2 and see if my argument leads anywhere?
Instruction from experts is a good thing, and that part of college is therefore a good thing. But there are many aspects of college that is directly or indirectly not exactly the same thing as sitting there in front of an instructor.
Things such as paying tuition, socializing, walking around campus, getting classes on being more woke. These aspects add and detract from the central idea of college, which is instruction by experts.
Therefore students have to weigh the total experience and see if it is worth it. The article is saying many of them reckon it is not worth it anymore.
In my first year of college, as not an Econ major, I had been exposed to both an avowed socialist economist, and one of the leaders behind the push to deregulate the airline industry.
The idea that they represent a single orthodox is a little flawed.
As far as generalizations go, this is as good as it gets. Well put.
To generalize even further, perhaps to the point of uselessness, is to find balance between tradition and your own spirit–patiently learning how things are, while always critically considering how they could be different.
As long as you maintain perspective like this, and you’re aware of the biases and pitfalls of the avenue you’re pursuing, you can do great in either, or why not spend time in several?
The narrow thinkers / cranks dilemma is beautifully described, thank you.
You aren't in the academia, are you? Because you explain things in simple terms, yet very efficiently.
One of the diseases of current academia is use of an extremely stilted language, perhaps intended to paper over some logical cracks.
I've done a bit of both so to speak. I studied History and Philosophy of Science as an undergrad, but have worked as self taught software engineer for nearly 30 years.
I don't think that jargon is created to confuse or obfuscate, most likely the opposite. My favorite example is in sailing. Every functional part of a sailboat has a name, because precise communication between crew can be critical and saying "pull the rope, no the other one, no the other other one" doesn't help. But telling a non sailer to tighten a jib sheet seems unnecessarily persnickety.
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> One of the diseases of current academia is use of an extremely stilted language, perhaps intended to paper over some logical cracks.
One word. Derrida.
ChatGPT and its successors may put a big dent in the pretentious blithering industry. It's now too easy to generate a pseudo-academic style. Large language models are really good at this, because they have so much obscure text upon which to draw.
Speaking of blithering, you are only parroting some Internet tropes in an echo chamber (which is probably where you learned them). You know by now that such things are nonsense; they are a waste of time and a poison to knowledge and reason.
And I think you are far behind the times - I'm not sure many people study Derrida these days.
What have you read recently?
> What have you read recently?
"Embrace the Suck", by Gleeson. (Yet another Navy SEAL memoir. This author seems to enjoy the suffering a bit too much. Other SEAL memoirs describe the same training, but not with such enthusiasm for the pain.)
Sorry, I meant, 'what have your read out of academia recently' that matches these claims?
I’m going out on a limb here… but did they all tell you about how hard ‘hell week’ was?
Yes. It's about purpose. SEALs all write about how tough it is, but it's seen as a means to an end. People in that business need to be that tough to succeed on actual missions.
Gleeson seems to be into the suffering for its own sake.
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> One of the diseases of current academia is use of an extremely stilted language, perhaps intended to paper over some logical cracks.
What have you read recently from academia?
> You aren't in the academia, are you? Because you explain things in simple terms, yet very efficiently.
Sometimes things aren't simple.
> Now? I can study online, I can read, I can converse with super bright people of my choosing
This is true, but in practice few people do it. Most people will not have much time left for study alongside a job. And without the "friction"/motivation college brings, most people will not learn anywhere near as much.
I get what you are saying, but most people couldn’t afford the journal subscriptions necessary to get a graduate education, or to learn any field in depth. Hopefully open access obviates this problem. The other value of being on campus is having access to professors. Not clear how to find the same master-apprentice relationship outside of academia for some fields.
> I can converse with super bright people of my chosing without the friction and limits of doing that in a college environment
Genuine question: how do you get those people to talk to you? (I am assuming you are not famous or wealthy enough to pay them to talk to you; I am neither.)
> inconvenient truths now get muzzled because they don’t fit an acceptable meta-narrative
Are you in college?
> can lead to thinks like Cambodia’s attempt at restarting society by killing all those who didn’t fit the model they were looking for
Wow. That's pretty wild! Can you back that up somehow? On the Internet, extreme statements somehow have more credibility. In college, more extreme statements require more extreme support for them.
> Analyzing cultures for weakness? Doesn’t sound like a particularly meaningful or commonly needed study.
What is more important than looking at ourselves in the mirror, and learning everything we can from others? It's not like we are doing so well right now.
It's not an extreme statement, just a brief description of well-known events.
The statement didn't describe the Cambodian genocide. How about backing up the actual claim?
I suggest you read the article. If that doesn't answer your question I think you and I are interpreting the claim differently.
I'm not reading articles (especially Wikipedia) and trying to infer your argument for you. You state it if you've got it. Stop making excuses. Assume I know about the Cambodian genocide.
"tried to restart society by eliminating people who didn't fit the mold" seems like a decent, if a bit simplistic, description of the Cambodian genocide. What exactly are you up against?
Dude, why not read the article first? Kampuchean communists (under Pol Pot) murdered nearly 20% of Cambodia's population of 7.8 million in just four years.
There goal was to build a self-sustaining agrarian society and everyone who even looked like an intellectual, had a university education, had glasses, or some other trappings of Western life was eliminated or sent to concentration camps where they mostly died.
Why? Because the didn't fit the mold of "suffering farmers oppressed under capitalism & imperialism, waiting to be rescued."
Please, this is widely documented and trying to suggest otherwise seems quite disingenuous.
Uh, did you reply to the right person?
What claim in the original post does that support? None, it has nothing to do with it.
The comment you responded to said
> I agree with you that inconvenient truths now get muzzled because they don’t fit an acceptable meta-narrative. This is very problematic for society and when taken to the maximum, can lead to thinks like Cambodia’s attempt at restarting society by killing all those who didn’t fit the model they were looking for.
And then you took issue with the description of the Cambodian genocide. Despite the fact that he was agreeing with you. Now you start a whole new argument. I'm not even sure what are you trying to argue about.
No, I took issue with "can lead to".
Cultures shall be analyzed as a whole, advantages, weakness and not skip infamous parts. Cherry picking is a direct way to indoctrination.
Ah yes, just like things such as slavery, Native American history, colonialism was glossed over in US History so that the great achievements could be celebrated, and we didn't have to actually think about who paid the price.
When were these parts skipped in American education? As a high school student in mid-1990s, I was exposed to these a-plenty, not to mention college.
My 1990s Texas high school was very... circumspect... in terms of how it talked about manifest destiny, slavery, and reconstruction.
The majority of our history classes also frequently got bogged down before we could get to the civil rights movement and really have to go into the dirty little details of what the post-Civil-War US looked like.
Coming from the other side of the globe… I’d rather talk about USSR gulags, genocides by various Russian empires, Ottoman eastern-Europe-sourced slaves trade, slave sourcing themes in Africa lead by locals, crusades targeting Eastern Europe, Ribbentrop-Molotov pact and West selling out Eastern Europe…
Arguably, the Cambodian people could have potentially avoided the genocidal deaths of millions of people by analyzing the weaknesses of the Soviet/Communist culture, weaknesses that repeatedly lead to mass death. Seems pretty meaningful and deserving of study to me.
One of the problems with this argument is that the murderous Cambodian oligarchy consisted of graduates of Western universities.
Intellectuals in general have espoused a lot of inhuman political ideologies.
But would academic wisdom have avoided the rise of Pol Pot? The German people were pretty well educated and recently had been reminded of the cost of letting political forces spin out of control given the debacle and horrors of of WWI, yet they made the same mistakes as Cambodia in 1932 in allowing the rise of Hitler (whose Mein Kamph provided plenty of forewarning of an incoming regime based in hate).
I don't see education as the solution to despotism. That requires a fair mind and rationality — neither of which has roots in book learning.
I don't think 1920s-1930s Germany and 1970s Cambodia are comparable. By the 1970s there was a significant amount of hindsight available for any country that was aspiring to either ultra-nationalism or communism, not so much in the late 1920s when Russia was still in significant flux after Lenin's death. What would the Germans have compared the Nazi regime to?
Communism does not lead to deaths and genocide. Concentrated, uncontested power does.
And communism leads to concentrated, uncontested power. The dictatorship of the proletariat will never dissolve itself once it gets absolute power.
Or at least it requires it in order to function. Not sure which comes first.
It is possible to have communism without concentrated, uncontested power. We have seen no such implementation as of yet but it can happen. As with most revolutions there is a period of absolutism that follows its success.
I agree that you could have communism without concentrated power but the key there would be that all governance and choice of governance would be rescinded to the smallest possible communities. That means, absolutely and without debate, that those communities could choose whatever form of economic organization that they wanted to, so you would wind up with a heterogenous mixture of every kind of economic theory, communism, capitalism, socialism, mercantilism, and probably a dozen other variations. That would be great if you could ensure that certain rights were broadly respected such as freedom of movement so that people could leave a system they disliked and join one they preferred.
I don't necessarily see communism working over a long period even at that scale though. I think attrition would be too high. The chance of some whacko gaining too much power would be too high. Moral would degrade over time when people were able to compare their own situation with that of their neighbours under other systems.
Honestly, I think we'd be better off making room for small communes and giving them legal protections similar to corporations. Establish some decent laws that allow people to organize and live that way for as long as they want to but also ensure that such systems aren't abused and are held to account when they do wrong. There's a time and place for them in many people's lives but it isn't something we should try to impose on a broad, unwilling populace.
Wow - so you can make it happen, but not Mao, Trotsky, Stalin, Tito, Deng, Ho Chi Minh, Mengistu, Castro, Sankara, etc.?
I did not claim that I could make it happen. I claimed that it was possible.
Note that Deng changed PRC from personalist dictatorship to an autocracy that had much more decentralization. He wanted one party rule but not all power in the hands of one person. His liberalization of the Chinese economy lifted millions out of poverty. China ignored Western economist advice and did much better than former Soviet republics as a result.
The mass killings and terror stopped with Deng. They are back with Xi who has re-established a personalist dictatorship. Instead of a blanket knee-jerk reaction to the word “communism” one should analyze each situation on its merits. There is nuance at play. Tito was no Stalin, for instance.
Communism aims to reorganize human interactions down to the tiny details. But, given the option, the average human is individualist, especially in a large society. So, practical communism inevitably requires violence to get people to go along with it!
Since execution squads, and genocide have occurred in economic systems that aren’t self described as communist it’s worthwhile to inquire about what is typical about such occurrences. Generally, it is too much power in too few hands. This oversimplification is much more accurate and useful than, “communism leads to genocide or mass murder”.
You really think that before this era of education there wasn't a meta-narrative and inconvenient truths were also hidden? Are you that naive?
> Eg I had a class that really critically analyzed native American cultures. Today the class would be considered racist, it would have to a priori be an admiration of those cultures, rather than a critical analysis.
This is bullshit. The difference is that today, your own culture e.g. (non-native) American society till the modern day is considered fair game for analysis, whereas 20 years ago there was probably a fair bit of "they are savages to be studied, whereas we are civilized" complex going on.
Guess what, that tends to temper critical analysis of other cultures as well, and focuses on understanding without judgement. It is dishonest to cast this as "a priori admiration".
> The good news is that its much more accessible now days to learn how to think outside a college system. If that's what you are hungry for, college is perhaps even your least likely bet.
An unnecessary dichotomy. The Internet is not blocked at a college, you can continue to study outside things while you are at college. The problem for most people seems to be that at a college, these ideas will be subjected to rigorous intellectual analysis, whereas on the Internet it's easier to hide in echo chambers where everyone agrees with you.
> I say this as a person with 3 degrees...colleges were more old school then than now.
I think this is little more than viewing the past with rose-tinted glasses. Guess what, things change, and usually in a way that society is better off. I highly recommend against the Internet as a substitute for actual college education because it's not "old school" any more.
I can’t speak to what the original poster experienced in college, but your heated response implies a resistance to at least some forms on inquiry as unacceptable or inappropriate or at a minimum worthy of disparagement, which I think undermines your argument a bit.
> but your heated response implies a resistance to at least some forms on inquiry as unacceptable or inappropriate or at a minimum worthy of disparagement
I'm trying to engage reasonably by assuming some things here, specifically that the OP has peripheral knowledge of some courses (since they haven't actually attended college recently) and they are categorizing the relatively detached nature of those courses as "a priori admiration".
I guess I could also respond by simply asking for specific examples of "a priori admiration" that the OP has seen in college courses recently. I doubt I will get any, but am open to changing my mind if I do.
The person you are replying to was onto something when he called your comment "heated"
Your first post had none of the things you are talking about in your 2nd post... It simply said "that's bullshit" and suggested that what changed is the openness of western culture to criticism.
Your second post (one I am replying to) is more reasonable but if this is somehow what you originally meant that's not what came out..
> The person you are replying to was onto something when he called your comment "heated"
I would probably say blunt, but I think you got the general tone correct.
> Your second post (one I am replying to) is more reasonable but if this is somehow what you originally meant that's not what came out..
Well, the original post had no proof and was making wild statements. It's fair game to meet it with a blunt assessment.
Do you spend time arguing with the wild-eyed guy on the street who is holding a sign that secret agencies are spying on you? Probably not. On the other hand, see that in a national paper with some references and statistics, and hey, you're actually sitting up and taking notice.
Your first comment was much more on the wild-eyed guy side of the scale, hence the (probably overly so, sorry!) blunt engagement.
// The difference is that today, your own culture e.g. (non-native) American society till the modern day is considered fair game for analysis
These was definitely no shortage of ability to analyze and criticize western civilization in a college 20 years ago.
// An unnecessary dichotomy. The Internet is not blocked at a college
You are replying to a comment about what is accessible. College does not preclude internet. College however is an extremely large resource and time commitment. Therefore ability to learn outside of that is a great addition.
// Guess what, things change, and usually in a way that society is better off.
Agreed. Hence the article we are all talking about - people wisely chosing to forego college as a default.
> These was definitely no shortage of ability to analyze and criticize western civilization in a college 20 years ago.
Not to mention that the whole 18th century is famous for its criticism of (that time's) western civilization...
> This is bullshit. The difference is that today, your own culture e.g. (non-native) American society till the modern day is considered fair game for analysis, whereas 20 years ago there was probably a fair bit of "they are savages to be studied, whereas we are civilized" complex going on.
Emotional temper tantrum - check.
Whataboutism referring to other cultures - check.
> Guess what, things change, and usually in a way that society is better
Unchecked assumption that “new” = “better” - check.
Definitely the product of modern academia lacking any critical thinking skills with a knee jerk reaction to any criticism.
This is hilarious. And I'm assuming that a declaration like:
"Eg I had a class that really critically analyzed native American cultures. Today the class would be considered racist, it would have to a priori be an admiration of those cultures, rather than a critical analysis."
...that makes rather extreme ad-hoc statements about modern academia without citing even a shred of their own or someone else's experience is chock-full of critical thinking skills and a great way to conduct debate?
Definitely the product of an education via Internet Corner Bubble Forum where you can randomly make up controversial statements that get upvoted by like-minded people and expect to not be called out on them.
> "Emotional temper tantrum - check."
"You're hysterical for giving my Kleenex-thin argument the short shrift it deserves!"
> like-minded people and expect to not be called out on them.
Read the replies. There was a debate. You just weren’t a part of it because you just had a shit fit and didn’t contribute.
<< But I wouldn’t dismiss its value in being taught how to think.
I had my best critical thinking class in community college. If I was innately smart, I probably would not have needed it as badly, but that one class gave me a lot of foundation and some credence to 'education' being useful. In other words, I am not smart, but I am educated. Overall, I think society benefits from that.
But that was 2 year community college after which I transferred ( and later got an MBA ).
People always use this term "critical thinking" on the internet and I am not sure anybody that uses it has a good definition of what it means or why it is something that can or must be taught in a college kind of environment.
At least personally, it's concerning to find out how many people think they are thinking critically all the time, but are not able to think critically about the definition of critical thinking.
It seems to me that there are several common ways people define the term:
1. To mean any innate interest or drive whatsoever for knowledge in any topic that is remotely academic or related to something academic. Typically in the context of something free-form and not guided by an instructor.
2. To mean the ability to re-evaluate beliefs shaped by the knowledge you have previously absorbed. This is the most common definition but also the most problematic since it rarely involves questioning your beliefs about critical thinking itself in the future. In essence you are replacing one source of truth with another source of truth making claims based on authority. This often leads to the typical "I learned about critical thinking, now I will reject anything my parents say as false and things my school says as true". I don't believe that is what is meant by this definition, but it is unfortunately very common for people to leave their "critical thinking class" with that kind of takeaway. They also might leave their critical thinking class with the tendency to come up with meta questions and meta narratives and then put them on the internet a bit like what I'm doing. I hate that as well since it's incredibly annoying.
3. To mean the ability to come up with solutions to a novel problem; to synthesize information from a variety of sources and come to a conclusion substantially different from each source individually.
As part of my history degree a required course was a guide to studying history (I don't remember what it was called - it was so long ago my degree could be considered history at this point). The whole course was about looking at the narrative in whatever work we were reading and then thinking about the author of that narrative. It was important to consider what the author was (and wasn't) saying in their work, to consider reasons why they were and weren't saying things.
For instance (and this wasn't an example from the course - that would be brutal to read the whole thing over a semester - I can barely remember the works we discussed directly) - Edward Gibbon's History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. He has a discussion around Christianity and the Catholic Church being one of the reason's for Rome's fall. It's interesting to place this idea in the context of HIS time - he was writing during the late 18th century and we see his contemporary modes of thoughts in events like the French Revolution, when there was a deliberate effort to remove the Catholic Church's power. The contemporary thought and his arguments mirrored each other. It was as much studying the work in its historical context as studying what the work was saying. This is what I think of when I think of critically thinking - considering all the layers of both the argument and why it's being made.
These are probably details around your point 2 in that they are meta questions, and while annoying, are vital to engage with a historical text outside of anything but as a collection of facts and an entertaining narrative.
Hmm. I mean an actual class in critical thinking. It consisted of several things, but mostly things like basic logic, fallacies and so on.
In other words, neither of three options listed.
The CIA has a school for intelligence analysts.
"At the beginning of 2002, the courses were as following: during the first week, an introduction to intelligence topics included the history, mission and values of the CIA, as well as a unit on the history of intelligence an literature taught by the Center for The Study of Intelligence’s (CSI’s). Next, during the following five weeks, analysts are introduced to a variety of skills including analytic thinking, writing and self-editing, briefing, data analysis techniques and teamwork exercises, these representing the basic skills for a CIA analyst. After these five weeks in the classroom, the students go on a four-week interim assignment meant to help them understand how the DI relates to other CIA components, making them better understand their future role. Then, they return to the classroom for another four weeks of training in more advanced topics: writing and editing longer papers and topical modules addressing issues like denial, deceptions, indicators and warnings. These special kinds of analysis require advanced and sophisticated tradecraft skills. Afterwards, they go away again, for a second four-week interim assignment and when they return, after another four weeks in the classroom (when they deal with even more advanced topics), a task force exercise awaits them: a two days terrorist crisis simulation outside the classroom. This is an opportunity to show what they’ve learned and to see how they react in a situation that they might come across in real life."
That's a real "critical thinking" course. What they're trying to do is teach people how to extracts facts from contradictory, incomplete, and deliberately false information.
Some of the concepts are generally useful. Here's an overview of the subject, from the U.S. Army. "The critical thinking material has been used with permission from The Foundation for Critical Thinking, www.criticalthinking.org, The Thinker’s Guide to Analytic Thinking, 2012 and The Miniature Guide to Critical Thinking: Concepts and Tools, 2009, by Dr. Linda Elder and Dr. Richard Paul." See especially section 2-13, "AVOIDING ANALYTICAL PITFALLS".
Oh okay that makes a lot of sense. I had a required course in philosophy that was essentially just that as well.
I suppose that is why I'm confused when the term is used, since I don't think I would use the term critical thinking for avoiding logical fallacies. A better term might be "not wrong thinking". Of course this also should take into account that some things we call logical fallacies probably shouldn't be considered logical fallacies at all, like "slippery slope" arguments and so forth, which are considered to be a fallacy since there is no mathematical implication, despite the obviously correct nature of many slippery slope arguments.
The word critical implies some sort of criticism, I'm not sure if identifying a logical fallacy is really what we typically mean by criticism. At the end of the day I guess the word itself isn't important.
You're right. Academics and graduates are terrible for claiming universities teach critical thinking, yet never stating exactly what they mean or how they think they're doing that. Maybe an obscure philosophy class tries, but the vast majority of students don't take that and the claim is made about a college education in general, not philosophy classes specifically.
Seems to me like it's a self-defeating argument. If they were really teaching critical thinking as a skill, degree holders would immediately start arguing with them about this vague and poorly thought out claim, but in practice people just nod along.
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I would define critical thinking as a way of filtering information before absorbing it as truth. This involves actively questioning it- is it internally consistent, does it seem to have an agenda, are some obvious questions not being considered, are the arguments appealing more to emotion than logic, etc.
> Eg I had a class that really critically analyzed native American cultures. Today the class would be considered racist, it would have to a priori be an admiration of those cultures, rather than a critical analysis.
It is amazing how many people here are accepting with and agreeing with this statement with no citations at all.
No links to syllabuses of syncophant-led culturally-censored classes.
No links to anything about old courses getting cancelled or changed.
Just a "everybody knows" claim that is either believed or not depending on previous biases.
You have a very weird understanding on how colleges today operate.
There has been a lot of progress in exposing students to broad and multifaceted view of human endeavours. Aboriginal cultures are portrayed in full and with their negative and positive aspects in courses about them. I literally had a course on pre-colonial American cultures... that included all aspects of culture.
What would be racist - is having presenting a very lopsided view on what happened before colonial era replaced those cultures in the "new world"
> Nowadays college is a baseline consumer good that "almost everyone" is expected to consume
I think this depends quite a bit on your socioeconomic class. Overall in the US, only about 1/3 finish a college degree
You get the point I'm making though, right? :) If you want to sell your product to 33% percent of kids, your product has to be very easy to consume.
Are you suggesting that college is a standardized product? Most people can get through a generally non-selective state school--and, to be clear, some of those graduates have done extraordinarily well for themselves. But selective elite schools aren't selling their product to 33% of kids.
I am making a generic comment. For college to be accessible intellectually to 33% of people, the barrier to entry (amount of mental effort and desire to learn) has to be pretty low. Doesn't mean it has to apply to every student or school.
This thread was about "college" generically, not about MIT.
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> I had a class that really critically analyzed native American cultures. Today the class would be considered racist, it would have to a priori be an admiration of those cultures
If we are going to be collegiate, let's critically examine our own posts. What is that based on? It doesn't match what I know.
If you want to be collegiate this literally happened a year ago:
> When Professor Stuart Reges challenged the University of Washington’s position on land acknowledgements, administrators punished him, undermining his academic freedom
But don't worry, you don't have to go so far as critically teaching about all the aspects of different cultures to risk being accused as a racist on college campuses. I also remember the racist rock from a couple years ago:
> The University of Wisconsin removed a 42-ton boulder from its Madison campus Friday after complaints from students of color who called the rock a symbol of racism.
* The Fire appears to be an advocacy organization for one side o that debate, not a credible source of news.
* What is wrong with removing the rock? What do you know about it? I read a couple articles, including the CNN article, and nobody seems to dispute its racist symbolism. The campus administration supported its removal and the students who raised the issue. What do you know better? And who was censored or otherwise harmed by its removal?
As is common IME for these sorts of claims, smoke machines but rarely a fire.
Stuart Reges seems like a well-known controversy generator, looks like he was in the news about this other thing  a while ago as well.
Given this background, I think it is a mark of academic freedom that literally all the university did was offer a separate course section for people who wanted it. I fail to see how he is being retaliated against in any way -- if the university is offering an alternative to his course for people who want to exercise their academic freedom, why is he against that?
Sounds like it should be useful to promote free thought! You can either take the course where the whackjob professor has weird takes on women and code, and rails against acknowledging Native American tribes in a computer science course -- or you can take the course that, you know, focuses on computer science. And hey, maybe the whackjob professor is a good enough teacher that his content outweighs the land theory nonsense, and people actually take his course? I certainly know a lot of good professors I learned from at college were eccentric.
I admit the second one is far-fetched and weird; but almost entirely removed from academia. Sounds to me like a bunch of administrators making work to justify their own inflated salaries.
Your post makes me consider what other avenues to achieve the growth of intellectual souls and exposure to depth of thought could exist other than paid-for highly-structured institutions.
I think people wax poetically about their own experiences without really considering the experiences of others. We've had free public libraries for centuries now. We've had a pretty open Internet for decades. There is literally nothing stopping a 20 year old human who lives in Western society from growing their intellectual soul through learning.
For a lot of young kids, school is more like a prison than an intellectual garden. Yet a certain kind of thinking keeps these institutions mandated with the good intention of growing souls.
My own opinion is that the current means is utterly failing at generating the desired ends. As the antiquated expression goes: You can lead a horse to water but you can't make it drink.
What a university can provide is direction: an explicit decision about the order concepts are learned, and the perspective each concept is approached from.
That can be really useful, especially when professors have enough free time to spend with individual students.
It can also be really detrimental: every person has a unique education history that determines what order and perspectives are most optimal to their learning.
The problem I see is that university is structure. The entire design is intended to be predetermined and inflexible. Edge cases are handled by bringing a student "back on track", assuming that track to be the best learning approach for every student.
Most of the substance of "liberal arts" is exactly what a person needs to learn to progress out of this system. The irony of a successful university experience is that the more successful it is at teaching you, the sooner you can walk away and continue learning on your own.
> What a university can provide is direction: an explicit decision about the order concepts are learned, and the perspective each concept is approached from.
Also just touching on "these things exist", converting unknown unknowns into known unknowns. That's the single biggest thing I got from my degree (having already been programming for years before), that nowadays I'm occasionally reminded of in a relevant context and can now dig deeper into.
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Of course there's something stopping them from learning.
It's called their own lack of understanding. Take virtually any topic about anything and do a search for it on the internet. If it's even remotely controversial, there will be thousands of pages screaming at each other in opposition to each other. Meanwhile, the academics who are doing actual research are sitting over there in the quiet corner, making an attempt to cut through the bullshit.
It definitely gets easier to cut through the bullshit on your own once you've been around the block a few times, but that's as an actual adult with an actual education, not a child who doesn't know much about anything or a man-child who can be convinced to believe the truthiness of a topic.
The internet is a problem because actual knowledge is often boring. There's no controversy in many fields amongst scholars because they've either exhausted the research on a topic or there's so much data supporting the general consensus that it's not likely to budge. People don't get excited about knowing the things that everyone should know. They get excited about knowing the hot, new thing regardless of whether it's even verifiable or valid.
>There is literally nothing stopping a 20 year old human who lives in Western society from growing their intellectual soul through learning
Except for humans in general being utterly shite at pursuing learning without guidance or an immediate goal, both in regards to the learning effectiveness (i.e. how much you learn per amount of time or effort), and having the discipline to keep the grind
Most people are not, in fact, capable of just going to a library (or using the internet) every day and deeply learning a subject. They need an external force to actually keep grinding, even if they do want to do it by themselves
Also learning is more than just reading a whole lot. Not every field or subject is software development where the tools you need to actually do are so easily accessible.
I hear it used to be that there was a culture of serious working-class learning in England. Like, the barbers in the shop would pay some street-kid to read them books -- there was no TV -- while they cut hair. And the cabbie could get into a conversation about Kant or something with his passenger. Maybe just to mess with them, but still.
The surprisingly intellectual cabbie is practically a trope. They get to talk to a lot of different people so can end up learning all sorts of things you wouldn't expect.
They also have to be pretty smart and able to study to get past the knowledge, so cabbies in London are often actually pretty intellectual people.
In Sweden you have https://www.abf.se/Om-ABF/In-English/
> We've had free public libraries for centuries now.
Not even a century and a half, really. The first Carnegie library was opened in 1883, for example.
I mean, pedantry aside this is such an easy question that even Google can find a result. 
According to that link: The Darby Free Library in Darby, Pennsylvania, is “America’s oldest public library, in continuous service since 1743.”
But really, without going too off topic, why would you even bother to try to correct a statement that is used for effect? Are you trying to suggest that 150 years vs "centuries" is a relevant distinction for a point made about college-aged knowledge seekers? Are you interested in showing you have the trivial fact on hand for when the first Carnegie library was formed?
I'm open to being corrected but sometimes I just have to shake my head. Not only was your attempt to correct irrelevant, it is factually off base.
I contend that "We have had free public libraries" is not a statement about the mere existence of a public library somewhere, but rather and especially in the context of this discussion a claim about how widely available resources for self-education are. And that's firmly the latter half of the 19th century, following efforts of people like Buckingham, Edwards, and Carnegie. And these are still not even close to universally accessible - there can be plenty stopping "a 20 year old human who lives in Western society" from accessing them.
So, no, not pedantry - just asking that you genuinely consider the experiences of others before waxing poetic about some irrelevant historicism. Perhaps unguided education is today not as accessible for everyone as it was for you, for many reasons.
(p.s. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Darby_Free_Library says it was a subscription library until 1898. Maybe also Google, which seems to be what you meant by "the open internet", is not that great a resource either?)
> Perhaps unguided education is today not as accessible for everyone as it was for you, for many reasons.
That is fair, I am too liberal with my hyperbole and so I'll try to be a bit more clear. It seems unlikely to me that an individual that has access to a guided university education does not also have access to freely available educational resources either online or in public libraries. That is, I do not believe that a youth today that desires to "grow an intellectual soul" has the single recourse to enroll in the structured environments of universities.
I have no idea how you clarifying or arguing over the precise duration of the availability of public libraries contributes to that discussion.
There is literally nothing stopping a 20 year old human who lives in Western society from growing their intellectual soul through learning.
Is wildly different than:
I do not believe that a youth today that desires to "grow an intellectual soul" has the single recourse to enroll in the structured environments of universities.
> I have no idea how you clarifying or arguing over the precise duration of the availability of public libraries contributes to that discussion.
Sure, when you totally change what you're saying, it's not relevant anymore.
> But I wouldn’t dismiss its value in being taught how to think.
Few universities teach how to think. Most teach what to think. Critical thinking, reasoning through ideas and concepts, and research are often lacking.
> I wish there was a bigger focus in physics, math, and philosophy for those who didn’t know what to do
I don't buy that. You can't by a psychiatrist. You can't be a medical doctor or nutritionist. There are a lot of useful things in this word, that we collectively need, you can't do with those.
But, I do think teaching philosophy would be useful. That involves learning how to think things through which isn't, for the most part, taught.
> If a person is smart enough to receive it, more education is almost always good.
There is an error in reasoning right here. The implication from the context is that you need to go to a college or university to be more educated. That's not true. It's also a complex question to ask, what level of education on what does who need?
MDs require more school on top of college; their major is often unrelated except they have to take pre-med classes. Often times people will go back to a community college or some other schooling option for those classes if they decide they want to go down that route. So you absolutely can be any of those majors and change your position later. Far better than say a communications major, which with psychology are the two main majors for people who are in college but don’t know what to focus on.
You can self-educate but very, very few have the capacity to get anywhere near what you’d get from a dedicated professional walking you through a curriculum in a context where you’re dedicating 4 years to the endeavor.
Of course not everyone “needs” to be more educated to have a functional life, but society is much better off when more of the public is educated. You can look around the world at the varying results of that, and it’s consequences.
Those that can self-educate effectively are also ones that would thrive in a proper high education system. Unfortunately, we're turning them away for various reasons (financial, lack of flexibility, etc) and filling rooms full of people who are there just because they were told to be there. It's quite horrendous, people in their 3+ years and they're still just going through the motions for the paper.
If you're not there to network and find a job, you're the odd one out. This idea of treating these institutions as places for continual higher learning is just not the norm.
It's an interesting predicament, more education for everyone is better, yet our designation of colleges/universities as the "last" required tier has stunted many people in many ways.
> Those that can self-educate effectively are also ones that would thrive in a proper high education system.
That might depend on what you define as 'proper'. These environments are typically tailored toward a certain median individual and if you don't fit that median (above or below), you aren't going to have a good time. In my own experience, I can generally self-educate far better than what I've found in any traditional educational environment available* to me. I just can't deal with the snail's pace of concept introduction, the shallowness of concept exploration, etc. Everything moves so slow and I just tune it out.
* What I've seen of MIT's open courseware appeared interesting and well-paced to me, but that's not a route that was ever available to me.
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> Those that can self-educate effectively are also ones that would thrive in a proper high education system
Disagree. I think it's the complete opposite. Higher education is way to structured and inflexible.
> society is much better off when more of the public is educated.
To what extent of educated? What do you mean by educated? A lot of what the general public gets isn't deep thought. It's being told what to think. A lot of the what to think is ideas based on assumptions and beliefs. Are people better off for learning them?
For those who want to think deeply, are modern colleges a place that allow for that? I know PhDs who no longer teach because there is a lack of intellectualism and too much indoctrination.
A dedicated professor telling me what to think (their ideas) rather than teaching me how to think and navigate the space well... for general things... may not be so useful to society.
> A lot of what the general public gets isn't deep thought. It's being told what to think. A lot of the what to think is ideas based on assumptions and beliefs. Are people better off for learning them?
Yes because what it would be replaced with is even worse and likely instantly falls apart under a modicum of critical thinking.
That's just indoctrination. Great I guess if you agree with the brainwashing. Not so great if you're on the other side.
Yes, there's a big overlap between "learning" and "indoctrination". For mysterious reasons we only care about not being indoctrination when it comes to adults or almost adults
People wouldn't learn anything if they had to deeply understand and verify every part by themselves before moving on
Great I guess if you're happy with most of society never moving too far past what's covered in the first stretch of middle school
> Yes, there's a big overlap between "learning" and "indoctrination".
Perhaps if you subscribe to the "chinese master" mentality. I never had much regard for this.
> For mysterious reasons we only care about not being indoctrination when it comes to adults or almost adults
Uh. I sure gave a damn for all of my memorable life --- literally since at least 4 years of age. I don't know about you.
> People wouldn't learn anything if they had to deeply understand and verify every part by themselves before moving on
This is true to some extent of everyone, but I always tried to think for myself as much as possible. Actually, it earned me a lot of scorn and ire, for not just following the herd...
> Great I guess if you're happy with most of society never moving too far past what's covered in the first stretch of middle school
If by middle school you mean social pressure to conform... well, I'd say we want the opposite of that.
If you mean that without indoctrination, people won't move past middle school in terms of knowledge... well, I would argue that most people don't seem to retain most of what they learned in middle school and high school to begin with... hell, that's basically the first half of college right there, just re-hashing those same topics...
It's "indoctrination" to point out arguments that fall apart under a modicum of critical thinking?
You could easily argue that education involves learning to construct solid arguments that do not fall apart.
No, not at all. You have to look at the context here, the post that I'm replying to. I'm a strong, staunch supporter of critical and independent thought. I'm sure some colleges probably teach that well, and I would heartily support, promote and defend such establishments, insofar as those practices were concerned. However, this is not what is being disputed.
> > A lot of what the general public gets isn't deep thought. It's being told what to think. A lot of the what to think is ideas based on assumptions and beliefs. Are people better off for learning them?
The issue is that azinman2 says this is fine (due to a claimed worse alternative). This is not critical thought at all. "Being told what to think", "based on assumptions and beliefs", is simply indoctrination. I cannot and will not support such.
Being told what to think involves thousands of years of the evolution of human knowledge. It involves math, science, chemistry, language, writing systems, etc. Things that have been challenged and evolved by critical thought from subject experts over hundreds or thousands of years. You seem to think it’s necessarily evil in some way, when it’s instead what’s in the best interest for society. Otherwise the entire populous will be flat earther simpletons.
> a dedicated professional walking you through a curriculum in a context where you’re dedicating 4 years to the endeavor.
Sounds nice. What I've actually seen is dedicated professionals walking entire classes en masse through curriculum --- a very different situation.
The context within the social and economic structure of society matters, too. Very few good quality careers are accessible for the self-taught individual.
Who defines good quality?
Is this compensation? Is this satisfaction with what you do? Is this ability to pay your bills and save enough? How much does one need (what's enough)?
This is all complicated and we tend to focus on compensation. That's why so many people stay in jobs for the pay while they hate the work.
There are lots of good quality jobs out there if you expand your definition beyond "highest compensation". I know people who switched and were much happier in trades. They felt far more satisfied, could daily see their accomplishment, and meet their bills (and then some).
Where did you get your view on good quality careers from?
In our society jobs that are satisfying are often not an option (even for the trades), regardless of the pay and regardless of the educational requirements.
In the context of this thread it is (almost) all about compensation. "Good quality" is in the sense that one can earn enough to "meet their bills (and then some)" and also weather a major event (such as a medical event). Satisfaction may or may not apply.
> It also grows the intellectual souls, exposing people to far more depth of thought.
As a (not so) recent grad from a top public university in the US - for STEM fields, absolutely. But from my exposure to the humanities and liberal arts side of the campus, be it gen ed classes or just day-to-day interactions with those students, it was far more like a brainwashing factory designed to churn out professional activists. Those classes were far more about rote memorization and regurgitation of the professor's political opinions than any sort of critical thinking; diverge from that "Overton window" and your grades will suffer.
And you're sure that you aren't the one who was upset at being exposed to new ideas and perspectives?
> It also grows the intellectual souls
maybe only a byproduct, it's more of a means to an end system. people are at the universities they are in because going to college still means something to the job market as opposed to learning everything else where. The people who really grow there 'intellectual souls' are those who would grow it regardless of environment/circumstance.
while I do believe it is a great thing for people to desire to advance themselves intellectually I don't believe it should cost as much as it does. It's ridiculous.
> If a person is smart enough to receive it + many aren’t smart enough for it
the benefits of becoming educated in its most fundamental sense don't vary with intellectual ability.
the way educational institutions are currently structured is one of many ways of educating people, so the question becomes whether that way of educating is optimal for an individual.
universities should be purely for the pursuit of knowledge and shouldn't be there to provide relevancy to the job market. That should be the job of systems specializing in providing pathways to certain job market sectors.
currently universities conflate the two which has lead to most of the problems they have been ascribed with today
I think you have conflated college with education. One can get education, build professional networks, etc with out college and importantly one can go to college complete a degree program while receiving zero education.
many (most) Colleges is more of a social guild than it is an educational ventures
Very few on their own would get anywhere close to what a college gives you in terms of an education. Particularly in ways that are far broader than what you’d do professionally.
Keep in mind college is 4 years of education on a daily basis.
>Keep in mind college is 4 years of education on a daily basis.
For some, but for most, I bet it is a lot less. There are entire degrees (and schools) designed to require little more than for people to show up somewhere a few times per week.
What degrees and which schools?
In the US, full-time minimum is typically 12 semester hours (credits) - that is, 12 hours in the classroom per week. In practice students often take 12-18 credits, and are considered overloaded at 20+ hours - some institutions require approval to exceed a certain enrollment.
I had multiple semesters while attending a California State University campus where my classes stacked up on Monday-Wednesday-Friday, and depending on lab schedules I'd wind up having Tuesdays and/or Thursdays "off", usually taken up by part-time work or projects. Most of my classmates in the ECE department spent their spare days in a similar fashion.
So, no, I was not attending class on a "daily basis". And personally, I've learned far more from professional development, personal projects and self-teaching than I ever did in the coursework for my engineering degree.
Business/psychology/criminal justice/communications degrees are generally considered the go to for easy degrees where you just want the status of having a Bachelors degree.
For schools, any smaller private school charging $70k per year that is not in the top 10 or 20 probably fits the bill. They have a license to give rich foreigners a way to buy into the US, and I doubt rigorous education is their priority.
"According to one survey conducted by the National Survey of Student Engagement, most college students spend an average of 10–13 hours/week studying, or less than 2 hours/day"
"A recent study showed that college students spend between 8 to 10 hours a day using a cell phone. Every day."
I agree with the parent comment. You have conflated college with education.
>>4 years of education on a daily basis.
Is it? Really??? For all degrees and all programs..
that is the claim... but I just do not see that manifest in reality.
Seem you have a very inflated view of the programs... just how much debt are you attempting to justify?
>Seem you have a very inflated view of the programs... just how much debt are you attempting to justify?
I agree with them and I had 0 debt. Making higher education free was one of the few things I think the government back home actually didn't drop the ball on
Apparently it's done wonders for a bunch of industries
Well like with many things. Context matters. here we are talking about the dysfunctional schooling system of the US. Other nations have different style of education that may be actual education.
There are also aspects and some intuitions in the US worth it. But they are few and far between, and becoming more rare as the institutions in the US move away from actual education, and more towards political based goals
I for one didn't know the political views of my professors -- it simply never came up.
That said, college students are adults and can be exposed to different viewpoints without worry. IMO students are influenced politically vastly more by fellow students than professors.
I carry zero educational debt.
How do you not see that manifest in reality? What school doesn’t have classes 5 days a week that people are taking, or otherwise expected to be somehow participating in an activity related to education? Sounds like a school that should lose its accreditation.
I have known alot of students, in many programs. On average I say students have classes 2 - 3 days a week, with 2 classes per day...
I know more than a few students attending top rated public universities.
According to one survey conducted by the National Survey of Student Engagement, most college students spend an average of 10–13 hours/week studying, or less than 2 hours/day and less than half of what is expected. Only about 11% of students spend more than 25 hours/week on schoolwork. 
a "Full time" course load is 15 credit hours, which is about 5 classes.. a student taking five 3-credit classes spends 15 hours each week in class..
In the past I have run college level internship programs, both for credit, and critically for this discussion not for credit (meaning no affiliation with the schools). I have had no problems scheduling students work around their course schedule, for which they normally have 2 or 3 open days for work.
I went to a public honors college / small state school, and arranged my schedule such that I only had 3 days of classes, so I could go home and take care of my sick mom and work a part time weekend job. Even then the schedule was not what I would consider punishing; significantly LESS academic work than I'd needed to do in high school taking APs, even with the reading load.
That school definitely is not in danger of losing its accreditation any time soon. It also didn't have any frats/sororities, and there weren't any bars within a 15 minute drive.
Agree with you here. I typically had at least 2 classes a day and spent most of the time outside of class studying or doing homework. It was easily more than 40 hours/week. That was for an engineering degree though. Friends in other programs (e.g. business, kinesiology...etc) had to spend much less time on homework and studying, but even they were learning daily.
College/University does not have a monopoly on intellectualism or networking.
There is no guarantee that attending a college or university will help you develop more than you would outside that setting. There is, however, a guaranteed cost; and that cost can be debilitating.
You’re right. It’s not a guarantee. But it’s a situation where it’s served to you on a platter. If you’re not capable of receiving it on a platter, it’s doubtful you’ll get it on your own.
Not everyone is capable of getting it in either scenario - as such as I said I’m glad more vocational opportunities are becoming in vogue again. Let’s just hope these vocations last another 20-30 years.
I think a number of hands on vocational jobs will last longer than quite a few white collar jobs. The robotics necessary for those jobs is quite far behind where we are with the necessary software.
> There is no guarantee that attending a college or university will help you develop more than you would outside that setting. There is, however, a guaranteed cost; and that cost can be debilitating.
Two things - that guaranteed cost CAN be debilitating. It also might not be. There are plenty of cheaper options available for higher education. And, in general, people with higher education make more money overall.
You can't trust a generalization to direct you to a specific outcome.
But you can do activities that increase your odds. The odds of making more money are better for college grads than otherwise.
>It also grows the intellectual souls, exposing people to far more depth of thought.
I am skeptical of this claim. In my experience, it just enshrines a different set of beliefs into students rather than new paradigms of critical thinking.
Then I don’t think where you went to school did a very good job of educating, or I’d suggest you didn’t pick up on what was being put down. For it to not provide critical thinking and/or depth of knowledge in a subject is a failed mission.
If so many people are reporting this experience, it may be time to re-evaluate the current state of education.
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> It also grows the intellectual souls, exposing people to far more depth of thought.
Have you even seen a college classroom in the last decade? The STEM classes absolutely have dedicated learners, but most of the people in those other classes can barely write their name on the corner of the page and the classes are designed to cater to their abilities because if they flunk out, they don’t pay next years tuition.
>It also grows the intellectual souls, exposing people to far more depth of thought.
This is a thing that happens to folks who attend school, but I don't think it is the school that causes this to happen. I think this effect is bound to happen to any young person who moves away from their home to live independently for the first time with a thousand other folks who are doing the same thing.
Just moving to a large city and working when you are young is enough to "grow the intellectual soul". Taking out loans and paying for lessons I don't think is a critical part of that development.
But not everyone moves far away to go to school and not all schools are in the big city. In fact, schools now have evolved closer to daycares with the amount of money being poured into dining halls and fitness centers.
> Just moving to a large city and working when you are young is enough to "grow the intellectual soul". Taking out loans and paying for lessons I don't think is a critical part of that development.
Eh. Plenty of people migrate. That doesn't make them educated, necessarily.
If a person is smart enough to receive it
And this can't be the case, at least not in the sense that colleges can offer education at the caliber they once were when only educating 25-30% of the population 70+ years ago. Academic ability, like most other traits, exists on something close to a normal distribution. Not to mention the failings of the secondary education system feeding into it.
> It also grows the intellectual souls, exposing people to far more depth of thought. It also builds professional networks. If a person is smart enough to receive it, more education is almost always good.
That's the "finishing school for the elite" function. If you have to ask if you can afford that, you cannot.
>It also grows the intellectual souls, exposing people to far more depth of thought.
This is a thing that people say, but I've never seen it happen. To the extent that people are exposed to depth of thought or new ideas, the people interested would have found those things faster, cheaper, and more frequently if they avoided the rat race parts of university programs.
It's similar to the thought that university degrees help people economically, but that is rarely the case. We've spent many human generations trying to figure out how to move the needle and it's mostly IQ + big 5 personality + luck. The people that COULD have gotten into Harvard but chose to go elsewhere wind up with the same outcomes as the people who DO go to Harvard.
Are modern colleges actually succeeding: 1) Exposing people to depth of thought 2) Teach people how to think
Maybe, at one time they did, and maybe some schools still do, but it doesn't seem like most modern colleges are really doing this very well.
> grows the intellectual souls, exposing people to far more depth of thought
It’s honestly cringe when people talk about colleges as if they have some sort of monopoly on thinking. If you want to be intellect stimulated, then do intellectually stimulating things, like reading lots of books. Will Hunting was basically correct about library cards (though it’s not like you really even need libraries any more).
> more education is almost always good
There is a lot of nonsense credentialing in America. My most rewarding liberal arts classes in college were electives. Scratch that: the only liberal arts classes I took that had merit were electives.
The others’ reading lists were fun. But the discussion, assignments and evaluation stupid to the point that I spent years thinking up clever quips to the absurdity of it all.
> It also grows the intellectual souls, exposing people to far more depth of thought.
"See, the sad thing about a guy like you is, in 50 years you're gonna start doin' some thinkin' on your own and you're going to come up with the fact that there are two certainties in life: one, don't do that, and two, you dropped 150 grand on a fuckin' education you could have got for a dollar fifty in late charges at the public library!" - Good will Hunting
> It also builds professional networks.
Wait so is college about making money or about growing the soul, because you just said it was about growing the soul but now it's about hobnobbing with people's whose only qualification was the ability to pay money to go to college sounds shallow.
> If a person is smart enough to receive it, more education is almost always good.
If colleges were still about educating I might agree with you but we are a long way from colleges being about educating people. At this points it's simply a social signal.
Few will spend a huge amount of time self educating, and even fewer can read the books and understand what to extract from it without guidance. That’s the whole point of having a subject matter expert design and teach a curriculum. If you don’t value that, then in your world we should abolish high schools and earlier as well. If you look at societies where people don’t go to school versus where people do, the results are quite different for society. The evidence speaks for itself.
> Wait so is college about making money or about growing the soul, because you just said it was about growing the soul but now it's about hobnobbing with people's whose only qualification was the ability to pay money to go to college sounds shallow.
There can be multiple benefits simultaneously at different levels.
If whatever college you’re attending is only creating a social signal and not meaningfully educating, then that school lose its accreditation.
So wait, if a person fails to benefit from college, it's their own fault for not taking what was "handed to them on a platter" (as you mention in another of your posts" --- but if they fail to self-educate, it's only natural and thus a problem of not going to college?
> It also grows the intellectual souls, exposing people to far more depth of thought
It doesn’t uniquely do this. You don’t need college to have intellectual conversations or be exposed to new ideas.
It's hard to find opportunities for this outside college. Most people are not interested in intellectual talk, so the question is how to meet like-minded folks? I can't seem to find better alternatives to universities, for both number and diversity of opportunities. Book clubs seem like the best option but are often too narrowly focused on literature.
This has changed over time. Probably simply because of the internet. It used to be harder to expose yourself to the variety of ideas and perspective that college did.
I would argue that it nowadays teaches more herd-behavior and political correctness than depth of thought (example: last Stanford Law dean case)
> it also grows the intellectual souls, exposing people to far more depth of thought
This illogical trope is responsible for so much suffering, being responsible for driving millions of people to waste their time and money pursuing useless college educations.
I suspect the folks here defending philosophy had a very different experience with philosophy than I did. I took an ethics class in college through the philosophy department and all I remember from the class was the professor telling us that pro-choice was the only philosophically defensible position, and reading various excerpts from Plato, etc., without ever discussing “how to think about it” like some siblings mention.
Does anyone have any recommended resources for learning about philosophy? I’ve read some Aristotle and Plato but I think I’d benefit from something more structured.
A single class is too little to really learn anything. As a rule of thumb, a semester of full-time work is enough to learn one "thing". That thing can be wide, in which case you get an overview of the topic, or it can be narrow, allowing you to dive deeper. Anything less, and the only thing you'll likely retain is a random selection of ideas and factoids.
If the degree nominally takes 4 years to complete, you have enough time to learn approximately 8 things. Use one slot for a subject, and most universities will give you an introduction to the topics covered by the subject. Use another, and then you may start understanding the arguments and issues in one subfield.
Philosophy? A subject so useless the only jobs it qualifies you far are those that have you teach it to others. I have no idea why you’d group a pyramid scheme with two sciences.
> If a person is smart enough to receive it, more education is almost always good.
This presupposes that college provides a good enough education. Arguably, the more you pay for school, the better the quality of education. A community college CS education is probably not as good as getting your CS degree at MIT.
I made the mistake of going to a college for my first two years with only two CS professors. I'd taken all of the first professor's classes, and the second professor grilled us on binary => decimal, no calculator allowed, on each of her finals (even for Cyber Security and Java!). Not every education is worth the ink the diploma is printed with.
> Of course money is a factor,
Money is THE factor. The cheapest educations that aren't useless are still too expensive for most Americans to afford. Almost nobody can pay for college up front, and the financing is extremely predatory. That's literally the crisis.
No matter how good "learning to think" is, college simply isn't the right place to do it for millions of people. It ruins futures, and knowing how to think doesn't dig you out of crippling debt that only gets discharged if you die.
Everyone says that it teaches you how to think but I’ve never heard of a good reason why. I remember difficult classes but I don’t remember any special sauce that made me think differently than I did in high school. I’m not saying that I don’t believe that it teaches you this, I just have never heard more reasoning than the surface statement. Does anyone have any examples or theories of this?
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That's #2 on the GP. At least if the college is as expensive as the US ones are, only the elite can get a positive value from those things.
>more education is almost always good
Yes, but we also need to be cognizant of the opportunity costs: 4 years of gainful, productive employment minus educational debt.
I don’t think university has a monopoly on education any longer. But they still maintain one on accreditation. As a society we need to take a hard look at what credentials certain degrees really need.
Id be surprised if 5% of college students "grow their souls" weirdly clueless thing to write. Not hard to find out that most people get business, psych and econ degrees. And even english or history majors half ass it just to get through.
> It also grows the intellectual souls, exposing people to far more depth of thought. It also builds professional networks. If a person is smart enough to receive it, more education is almost always good.
oh are we talking about youtube? i love youtube
> It also grows the intellectual souls, exposing people to far more depth of thought.
I think this is one of the more valuable components of attending university - in part just because it exposes one to more people, from more diverse backgrounds. It encourages you to see the world from more than one perspective, and to (I hope) be able to understand and be more compassionate about others.
There is a segment of people (in the US at least) that don't want kids to go to college for exactly this reason - they don't want their kids, or other young people to be exposed to or trained in critical thinking and broad perspectives.
It's definitely great to have all these wonderful things like wider general knowledge and being exposed to a serious depth of thought.
The problem is, of course, the expense. Unless you have an independent source of income (a family-taught trade, or inherited wealth), you end up with all this more advanced knowledge at a position where you have little opportunity to apply it, and a crippling debt.
To my mind, the right way to proceed is not to eliminate this kind of study, but to transform it so that it does not cost an arm and a leg. Which, I think, is completely doable.
> It also grows the intellectual souls, exposing people to far more depth of thought.
Eh, you can get all that without college. And you can go to college without getting any of that.
> It also grows the intellectual souls, exposing people to far more depth of thought.
Is there any evidence of this?
> If a person is smart enough to receive it, more education is almost always good.
Are you speaking narrowly of credential-granting schools or do you actually mean education here?
> It also builds professional networks
You know what else builds professional networks? Working and interacting with the real world.
out of all the reasons, IMO that is most anachronistic given the way that both Universities and society at large have changed away from these dynamics - and given also that the need for that personal access has also decreased dramatically over the last few decades
the people that can learning math, physics, and philosophy will have no troubles regardless of whether they study math, physics, or philosophy.
I'd also add
4) A social / networking experience. As an adult, rarely will you interact so often with so many people of your age.
5. A signaling mechanism. I have X credentials so give me job Y. This is far from ideal because the signal can be noisy. But it is a data point. It's similar to how physics PhD's are targeted for quant finance roles - they've signaled they can solve hard problems!
4) is the main thing for 4 year, in person colleges, I think. You can learn anything online. Credentials are nice but you can get pretty good credentials doing 2 years at a community college and finishing up at a state university. But meeting a bunch of ambitious people your age at the same point in their career is pretty valuable I think. At least it is an opportunity to roll the dice on meeting your startup crew.
And just making friends in general. Most Jon's are not full of people the same age and interests
I know so many people who don't keep in contact with high school friends, but still meet up with college friends from time to time. There's just something special about throwing a bunch of people of the same age into this melting pot that they chose to be thrown in to that creates these social networks that last a lifetime. Military friendships also seem to mirror this same effect
Well, it's also typically the last place you get the opportunity to make a whole bunch of friendships before heading out into the adult world where it requires much more effort.
4) if everyone wasn't locked up in college, they would meet other young adults in their neighborhood and social/hobby clubs and entertainment venues
5) in the modern day that can solved by testing regimes. A self-educated quant could take an online qualifying test, and in-person final exam, to get a job in finance.
I disagree with your testing theory. The signal from a degree isn't just that you know the content, but that you can consistently work towards a goal over many years, navigating a large organization with lots of arbitrary rules, and willingness to do assigned work that may serve no purpose.
You can't test to show that ability.
I dropped out of college after 2 years about 20 years ago. I have never come across the same social interaction since then. The value of education on some degrees is certainly over stated , and there are areas that can be self taught. There is a lack of social learning though that doesn’t come outside of education and school.
But tons of people aren’t locked up in college and aren’t meeting people in their area. They’ve also had their entire middle and high school years to do it. If they didn’t take advantage of it then, it’s unlikely they’ll take advantage of it at 18-21.
I think we are also forgetting that it is good for people to get out of their local bubble and get other perspectives/experiences.
In my experience - not really.
I know a lot of people around my age and only 1 person is working in my industry.
I’m just a HS graduate who should’ve failed my senior year, and I may well have dropped out of HS if I could go back and do it again. So, an enormous grain of salt should accompany what I’m about to say.
I think the benefits of a liberal arts education are probably worth everything its proponents say. Having a well rounded education, which exposes one to not just new ideas but an openness to new ways of thinking, is invaluable. I’ve hobbled together what I can from earnest interest (and some free courses from universities which opened up their lectures), and I’ve grown a lot from that. I hesitate to imagine how much more I’d have benefited from college being described not as a vehicle for future success but as a part of becoming a person in a world that only gets more complex—with age, responsibility, and time in a society.
I lucked out on the career front, but a more formal and broad education is something I really regret not pursuing at the time it most fit my life trajectory. And I think everyone benefits from that spirit of education continuing to exist.
This "broad" education can be useful, but not in a vacuum. It would be better if you are a technician, engineer or whatever and you pursue some kind of liberal art education; or say societal/psychological studies; or English studies, etc...
The point is, the real world still needs you to be productive in different things. You'd better have that first, get some real world experience and then expand your career horizontally by getting into these fields. I think the mistake is that some people have been pursuing these career in a vacuum and also took a lot of debt while doing it.
So while they might have had an interesting experience while at college, they are not of much use in the outside world.
> Having a well rounded education, which exposes one to not just new ideas but an openness to new ways of thinking, is invaluable.
In what way is it invaluable?
In the way that it keeps giving well after you graduate from college.
That’s equally vacuous. In what way is it beneficial?
Steve Jobs famously wanted to hire people that weren't just good programmers but people with serious and passionate side hobbies and pursuits (music, art, poetry etc.)
Have a broader awareness of things, of other arts, of history, of other crafts must make you better in the area of your core competence in some way I must imagine. For a computer programmer at Apple who is going to be designing a macbook, it's probably better that he have some inkling of what that machine's enduser would be doing with it. Is he going to be making music? Spending a lot of time watching political videos on youtube? Having insight into people, into other crafts will let him make a better machine.
Skills transfer across domains all around, sometimes wholesale and other times in small subtle ways. I was always stunned, for example, in reading Einstein's essays on subjects others than physics. His writings on politics, music, religion etc. reveal a man of tender awareness and care. Would he have gone on to develop the theory of relativity if he had not read works of Immanuel Kant? Leonardo da Vinci, Donald Knuth, Archimedes, the examples are aplenty for accomplished figures who had their hand in many jars.
> 3. A blood sports arena for the brilliant to complete for professorships (almost all of whom will lose and be saddled with 6 figures of debt and 7 figures of opportunity cost)
As somebody with a PhD, I say ho hum. I only took on 5 figures of debt, after quitting tech after the "dot com bubble." I had been bored out of my skull with the monotony and lack of intellectual challenge. But 7 figures of opportunity cost? Maybe even more, if I had joined the right startup. But I moved from low tech to high tech, using my degree in industry. Money is nice, sure, and can solve some problems in life. But real value is satisfaction. It doesn't have a price tag. There isn't a number of digits that would make me reconsider my choice.
If your primary measure of success is wealth, then university has never been the answer.
15 years is a long time when college tuitions rise by ~10% a year. 6 figure debt is more common than you would like. As for the connection between wealth and university, I would suggest looking at the stats on income and education. You can frequently find them in the admissions literature. Schools/departments brag about favorable career outcomes when selling their services to 17 year olds.
As someone currently doing a PhD, it really isn't that common to see 6 figure student debt. 5 figure yes but that has a range of 10k-99k. Most other students I've spoken to are around 10-30 so I'm not sure where OP is getting their numbers from
Tbh I haven't run into a single person with 6 figure debt who didn't go to law or medical school
Not just three uses, but also three fundamentally different offerings:
1. If you're looking for a professional trade school, go to a state school for undergrad. Every elite graduate who joins a BigCo after finishing finds themselves shoulder-to-shoulder with ten state school graduates who paid a fraction as much as they did to get to the same exact place.
2. If you're looking for an elite finishing school, well, there's only so many schools at the top. Ivies or Stanford or bust. If you don't get in, or can't afford to go, well, this route simply isn't open to you. Just don't fool yourself into thinking some small land grant college few people have heard of will give you the same thing. Elite finishing schools are what they are because of the connections you form there, not the educations they offer.
3. You have a much stronger head-start on the rest of the academic market if you start at one of a handful of schools, places like MIT or CalTech. You can, of course, still end up in academia coming from a state school, but it's much, much harder to stand out, much harder to get involved with undergraduate research, much harder to put together a strong academic portfolio not for any graduate school but for connected graduate schools.
This pessimistic view doesn’t seem that well supported by the data. In the US, we’re pushing nearly 40% of bachelor’s degree attainment, which is far broader a population than you suggest. There’s also the problem that degree holders earn an average of 2x more than non-degree holders. I was very surprised by this! The St. Louis Fed published this statistic in an article arguing that the wealth advantage of college was waning, but it kinda backfired on me when I looked at their absolute numbers. The fact that many many many good jobs require a degree and that earnings are statistically higher for people with degrees, I speculate, is driving college rates far more than all three reasons you proposed, combined… from a students’ perspective.
it's unclear if the causation here is having a degree. but it is correlated to a very large degree
This has been quite widely studied, actually. Many papers conclude that it’s a mix of causation, there is (unsurprisingly) some amount of actual learning of skills in college, and also (unsurprisingly) some amount of credentialism in the job market.
What does it matter though? Parent was presuming to argue from a students’ perspective. The amount of relative causation might be pretty irrelevant to a student who just wants to know what do to to maximize their chances of having a decent career. From a student’s perspective, lack of causation might even be a stronger reason than otherwise, it potentially means they can enjoy a more lucrative career with less work.
No, the main question is are the highest paid workers getting that because of college, or did the most driven and smartest go to college, and would have been equally successful had no one gone to college?
Back in the day (pre-WW2) most successful people did no go to college. College was for wealthy trust fund kids to spend some time meeting other wealthy trust fund kids, because there just weren't all that many colleges nor any need to go.
That whole college==more money thing didn't start until after WW2.
Yes, that is precisely the question that has been asked & answered, and the general consensus in the academic literature (for example https://www.nber.org/papers/w7322) is that it’s both.
The Fed paper I linked to here https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=35212497 shows dramatically higher income and wealth premiums for educated people in the 30s and 40s, so you might want to take a peek.
The GP asked what the outcomes would have been if no one had gone to college.
This isn't answered by the paper you linked, which discussed the impact on individuals of college choice in a world where people do* go to college.
This and other papers are trying as best they can to answer exactly that question, of what if there was no college. Since the hypothetical universe where college never existed doesn’t exist, they have to resort to careful scientific techniques that attempt to factor out every bias we can think of. They’re working with what they have. Papers have, for example, studied the family history of college attendance and adjusted (discounted) for when parents and grandparents attend, they have adjusted for family wealth, for race, for geographic location, for country, for tuition, etc. etc.. You can either accept that they’ve tried rather hard and come up with a reasonable answer, or accept that the question you’re demanding be answered in the specific way you want it answered is not answerable that way, your choice.
Again, I have to ask (since it hasn’t yet been answered yet in this thread) why does this hypothetical question matter from a student’s perspective? Students are deciding what to do in the world that exists now, not in a world where people don’t go to college. All they know is that outcomes are better with a degree that without, on average. If you were choosing college right now, why does it matter what happens in the alternate reality? Don’t you just think about the jobs you want in the future, what you’re interests are and how much money you want to make, and then go or not?
No they don't.
This and other papers are trying as best they can to answer exactly that question, of what if there was no college.
It doesn't matter from a prospective student's perspective. If someone cares only about their own success (or their children's), it doesn't matter. But it matters for society overall, so it is still worth discussing.
why does this hypothetical question matter from a student’s perspective?"
> No they don’t.
I believe you’re wrong on this point, but please elaborate; why do you think that, and what evidence do you have to back it up? Why do you claim that the papers I’ve already linked to aren’t answering this question? Why do you believe that no others exist? Are you talking about causality still, or are you only claiming that the papers I linked didn’t literally talk about a world without college?
Maybe we need to step back and state our assumptions more carefully. The thread above started by @jletienne asked what is the causal vs correlation split for the outcome of a university education, and then @jedberg presumed to clarify that question by asking what if there was no college, which is one of many ways to ask what is the true causal effect of university education on earnings and outcomes, as opposed to correlations that artificially inflate the perceived value of a degree. If people are more likely to go to college because their parents went, then parents deserve some of the credit, and college doesn’t get all of it. If two jobs make use of exactly the same skills, but one asks for a degree and pays more, then the job gets some of the credit too, and college gets even less.
The question ‘what if there was no college’ is simply a way of clarifying the causality, and so I have assumed we’re still talking about the causality question. Are you still talking about the causality question, or are you moving the goal posts on me? Yes it would be ideal to have a world with no college to compare against. The St. Louis Fed paper, since they have no world without college to study, does a causality analysis on the “true” value of college in section III, where they attempt to discount for correlations with some known biases that inflate that perceived value of a degree compared to the world where college never existed.
I'll paste here GP's question that we're discussing (emphasis mine):
"No, the main question is are the highest paid workers getting that because of college, or did the most driven and smartest go to college, and would have been equally successful had no one gone to college?"
There are a few interesting questions we could ask related to college attendance. The most common ones are:
1. From an individual student's perspective, does going to college have a positive ROI, in a world where the college and employment landscape exists as it does today.
2. If the answer to #1 is yes, how much of this is due to education, and how much is due to pure signalling ("sorting hat") effects?
3. If we were to eliminate all colleges, so that no one has a bachelors' degree, would that reduce the outputs and incomes of the most driven and smartest people.
The papers you cited attempt to address #1 and #2. But neither of those are the question that GP asked (which is #3).
You claim that they do address this question, but are asking me for evidence that they don't. I'm not sure what you're expecting me to do? Go through each and every paragraph in each paper and explain how it doesn't address #3?
It might be easier for you point us to a sentence or paragraph in either paper that envisages a world where no one goes to college.
> neither of those are the question that GP asked
The question of causality is in fact attempting to answer #3, and it seems like you’re failing to understand that. This is exactly what “true causality” means. The question being asked is whether the outputs and incomes of the smartest people are coming from the education, or from the environment where colleges exist. (Implicitly comparing to a world where no colleges exist.) The Fed study and others are trying to answer whether and how much of the outputs and incomes of the smartest people can be assigned to college, and implicitly calculating what the outcomes would be if colleges did not exist.
> It might be easier for you to point us to a sentence or paragraph in either paper that envisages a world where no one goes to college.
Ah, so you want a literal mention of no college. See this is where it becomes clear that you don’t understand the causality question and you didn’t understand the connection between what @jletienne asked and what @jedberg asked. They are not different questions. You think they are, but they aren’t.
Whether it’s fair to say or not: trusting professors to do a fair study on whether their expertise is necessary isn’t exactly an unbiased study.
I’m sure they meant well but it’s just hard to take anything they’re saying at face value.
That’s not fair to say. Read some of the literature. The Fed study isn’t even professors.
The first name on the study was a Wash U professor for over 25 years. The 2nd name has so far spent a significant amount of her life in academia. Only the 3rd author appears to have spent most of his career in public service.
Nonetheless now they all work for the Fed, so these particular ex-professors lacked the supposed conflict of interest you imagined at the time of publication. Not that I think it matters at all. There are papers on the causality of education from career academics claiming anywhere from little to none, and I haven’t seen any papers claiming it’s very very high, so the broad outcome is exactly the opposite of what would happen in your imagined scenario if it were true and researchers were being defensive and biased about the value of education.
Your comment above is FUD, not based on knowledge of the research or the researchers, but pure speculation, which is why it’s not fair to say.
I'm surprised you didn't include anything about meeting people for work, romance, friendship, or other social benefit, as for many, that can be a huge part of college.
That's only because almost everyone desirable goes there. If people stopped going, they could meet elsewhere.
I think people have a lot of shared context in college that they don't often have elsewhere. Depending on the college, but especially in the US campus experience, people live together, eat together, study together, party together, and more. So I don't think it's just the desirability of people.
Yes, when mixed together in the world at large, it's rare to run into people who have enough shared context to click with.
It sounds plausible, but university towns (at least in the US) are pretty unique in that they are dense and young people can afford to live there. You could say commuter campuses don't have the same social scene because not "everyone desirable goes there," but I'd wager it's more due to students driving in from 45 minutes away rather than living amongst each other.
The trouble is: where?
The alternative is a variety of places, and practically all of them have some kind of tax; where it be coffee, alcohol, or some kind of membership fee.
What we are missing is called, "the third place".
The third place is called "church" and it has been the center of socialization for 2000 years before western society replaced it with college and nightclubs.
Church is more equivalent to hobby clubs and work. Church is focused on a specific narrative, whether that be religious belief or generalized "unity". No matter how casual the experience, churches have purpose and exclusivity.
The third place isn't only physically missing: it's missing in our social behavior. It could easily exist in public parks, but we are expected to avoid strangers.
The other place you are missing in your life is self inflicted. No one stops you from going to church, you are. Capitalism created so many opportunities for you to choose that you are now afraid of making a choice.
At what point will you stop saying
> It could easily exist in public parks, but we are expected to avoid strangers.
And instead admit that YOU don't want to meet strangers, and that YOU expect others to avoid YOU. Bars are still a thing. Guys and girls nights are still a thing. Bowling, soccer, football, drama club, night club, drugs, hiking, climbing, the gym and so on for literally a million other things. Millions of people partake in these things every day. Every. Day. They are all happy to do it without you, because quite frankly, you do not exist.
Just admit you love sitting on the internet rather than going outside. Just admit it. It is bizarre that this is even a talking point. You learned how to be anti-social because you've found that it benefited you, there is no risk to being online, you don't have to embarrass yourself talking to other people. You don't want confrontation, you don't want to deal with the emotions and personal lives of others, you don't want any of the baggage that comes from interacting with humans whatsoever.
Even with the invention of the internet, you can invent your own "third place", and many have in numerous ways including forums, social media, special interest groups, gaming communities ALL exist here. So no. I won't listen to this bullshit of a missing 'third place'. You are anti-social, and you don't want to fix your issues.
> No one stops you from going to church, you are.
And, as an atheist, why in the hell would I?
If I attend a church, I will be expected to participate. At the very least, whatever narrative that church focuses on will be the topic of a significant portion of conversation. That is entirely contradictory to the "third place" I am talking about.
Your insinuation that I am the problem for choosing not to embrace a church as my third place proves my point. I can't even talk to you about the idea of a third place without you evangelizing in response.
Like you said, there are a million things: every one of them has an intentional purpose: a predetermined subject. Every one of them has the potential for meeting people, but "meeting people" is not the point!
> So no. I won't listen
Exactly. Here we stand in a world where most people (including you) are only willing to listen to the people from their chosen social groups. We can't even talk to each other without first sorting ourselves into categories of interest!
This is the failure of church: unification by demand. One narrative to rule them all; but in reality, competing with many other narratives. Why must we join a team in the first place? It's it really that hard to just talk to each other?
I included at least 10 different items that you could have chosen as hobbies for a reason.
Look, you're in the position you are because you don't like people. Just stop pretending like you actually want something to do socially. You don't. That's why you're here whinging about a conspiracy of a lost "third place". You left every group in the first place on your own. You are antisocial, and you don't want to live life any other way.
> Like you said, there are a million things: every one of them has an intentional purpose: a predetermined subject. Every one of them has the potential for meeting people, but "meeting people" is not the point!
It literally is the single point.
> Exactly. Here we stand in a world where most people (including you) are only willing to listen to the people from their chosen social groups. We can't even talk to each other without first sorting ourselves into categories of interest!
Narrative building and a weird diatribe, groups have always self sorted.
> This is the failure of church: unification by demand. One narrative to rule them all; but in reality, competing with many other narratives. Why must we join a team in the first place? It's it really that hard to just talk to each other?
This isn't a discussion, once again. This is you inventing a problem.
You are making this whole thing incredibly personal. I'm not even talking about myself! I'm taking about interpersonal societal behaviors.
You are making all kinds of accusations about my own personal behavior. That's not what I'm talking about, either! Just because I don't go to church doesn't mean I'm "antisocial". I have friends, I interact in groups, and I'm literally writing an HN comment right now. My entire point is that none of that is the "third place".
> groups have always self sorted.
That is precisely when they move from the "third place" to the "second place": when they become explicit "groups".
> This isn't a discussion, once again. This is you inventing a problem.
One again, this is you refusing to just have a conversation. You are so intent on criticizing me, so that you can win some vain competition, that you have completely missed what I am talking about in the first place. If you can't find it in your worldview, it must not exist, or it must be a mistake. Why must there be judgement? Why must there be a winner? Not every idea fits into a narrative of competition.
> You are making all kinds of accusations about my own personal behavior. That's not what I'm talking about, either! Just because I don't go to church doesn't mean I'm "antisocial". I have friends, I interact in groups, and I'm literally writing an HN comment right now. My entire point is that none of that is the "third place".
OK, seems like you're still pissed about the church comment, don't go to church then, I forgive your sins, athiest.
> That is precisely when they move from the "third place" to the "second place": when they become explicit "groups".
Even the reddit comment you stole this idea from tells you explicitly what "first", "second", and "third" place means. You are not correct.
> One again, this is you refusing to just have a conversation.
You are presenting an idea as if it's correct, whether it has any bearing in reality, you are presuming as if somehow, everyone must accept your idea as if it is a fact. This really isn't a conversation, you don't want this to be a conversation either.
> You are so intent on criticizing me, so that you can win some vain competition, that you have completely missed what I am talking about in the first place. If you can't find it in your worldview, it must not exist, or it must be a mistake.
Pot, kettle, whatever.
> Why must there be judgement? Why must there be a winner? Not every idea fits into a narrative of competition.
Yeah, sure buddy.
> You are making this whole thing incredibly personal. I'm not even talking about myself! I'm taking about interpersonal societal behaviors.
I will make things as personal or as impersonal as I want, that has no bearing on how others perceive it. Clearly, if you are so affected by my statements, then the literal "you" aligns almost exactly with the metaphorical "you" as I used. This isn't debate club and I have no intention on treating it as if it were.
That was kind of the vision of WeWork, for better or worst. An extended college dorm for white collar workers
That's even worse than a bar: you basically have to pay rent, and most of the people around you are intently focused on something.
The point of a third place, at least as I see it, is to have no purpose at all. Just be around other people and talk about whatever.
Have you seen the vast majority of the USA? It’s suburbia and parking lots. You try meeting people there.
it’s more like people tricked into going into the finishing school route at a non-elite college, not about whether you come from a rich family or not and don’t need to take on debt.
Go to an Ivy League and major in history and you still have a better chance at getting a job at an elite investment bank than someone who goes to a non target state school and majors in statistics or something.
Yes, basically lots of low tier unis are not worth wasting ur money on.
Ironically, I learnt the most important skills(learn how to learn effectively, prioritization etc) only after I started to work in a company where I was getting coached. I would have been far more efficient if go back to school now.
i wouldn’t say that. i just think if you go to a lower ranked school your path to career success more so relies on getting a technical degree but yes you shouldn’t be studying liberal arts at a no name school.
You just proved my point. Since most of the ppl do need to work for money and success or their quality of life suffers.They would need something like unis, trade school, online schools or whatever to bring them to their goal. By this standard lots of low tier unis are not worth the time
no i didn’t. it’s not about the ranking it’s about what you choose to study. if you go to a lower ranked school you need to focus on technical skills. saying it’s not worth it in general is not what i said at all
u changed my word again. i never mentioned ranking like the one u read in the media. i said tier because i meant the actual usefulness whether they r teaching aligns with ur goal. Ultimately it's about how useful they r to the students. I literally bring up effective studying as my own example and do u think the unis have this as an actual subject?
I'm not sure what u r trying to argue here, especially when u keep changing my word. U know exactly what I meant and u r just looking to be a contrarian
While these no name schools don't have a reputation nationally, they do have a reputation locally. So if you are looking for a job within a 50 to 100 mile (or whatever) radius of this university it will help in getting a job.
That's what parent&thread said. Technical trade was mentioned as a category
yes i know. i’m just clarifying for the above comment that all lower ranked colleges are not worth attending
> lots of low tier unis
My original post is still up there you know. I never said ALL
People—and not just "elites"—actually go to college to learn things. This is way too cynical/contrarian of a take.
Attend more actual college, read less Howard Zinn.
Yeah, I really don’t like the above take either. I have a history degree, and I’ve done very well for myself at a tech company. The writing and critical thinking skills I acquired have given me a huge leg up over more “technically minded” people in many situations (though I would never go as far as to say they wasted their time or I always have an advantage. It’s case by case, like most things in life).
He’s basically doing the “kids go to college and get a useless English degree” line that many boomers throw around, just with different window dressing.
Unless, perhaps, you are in a coma it is impossible to go anywhere and not learn something. That includes going to college. But there would be no reason for one to single college out amid all the places one goes to learn things. The parent is referring to things that college is seen as being relatively unique in offering.
I think part of the challenge and problem is that college has come to be synonymous with high tier universities.
There's a ton of non monetary rewards that can be had cheaply from learning, whether it is art, history, or any of the non technical professions. This value can be had for pennies on the dollar at community colleges without locking oneself into a 4-year degree track. You can ignore it GEs and simply take the classes you want to learn. You don't have to front load education into your early twenties and then stop completely once you are done.
I don’t know. I studied ancient history and historical linguistics in college. I managed to graduate with <$10k in debt because of working multiple jobs, academic scholarships and Pell Grants. Now, I have worked professionally as a programmer for >23 years, but I don’t consider my time in college to be wasted at all. College introduced me to a much more diverse group of people. I got to interact with very smart people on a continuous basis which helped me to think more clearly, more logically, etc.
People talking about the economics of college and citing their experience from over two decades ago as if it’s supposed to be comparable to today is really frustrating.
The economics wasn’t the important part. The things I learned studying ancient history and linguistics and how those have made me a better person and developer are.
I do understand how much tuition has skyrocketed. The year I graduated, tuition was $1,360 per semester. In 2023, tuition is $3,152 per semester. That is a $1,792 increase only 25 years (I graduated in 1998)
The economics are absolutely an important part. Your school is very cheap. That’s nice.
But you may well feel differently if you school had been 100x more expensive. Which is not a hyperbolic example.
What school only charges $6300/yr?
4. An amalgamation of sports teams for talented athletes to shop their skills to professional sports scouts.
The sports side of college is bizarre. I think it is descended from British upper class amateur athletics, but it makes no sense in modern times. Athletics has nothing to do with education. Nothing at all. Star athletes are there only so they can get noticed by scouts. Universities keep teams around for the money. They ought to stop pretending there's any connection to education and replace it all with minor leagues and farm teams. But since there's a hundred years of tradition, I doubt anything will change.
They have something to do with it in the sense that many people practice them and they need to practice them growing up in order to be able to do it as a job. You also cannot discount the impact of athletics programs on national defense and the programs that were done by multiple presidents to keep people active and healthy. Sports have this quality among cultural activities that they tend to improve your body and reduce healthcare costs in the overall population the more active it is, while at the same time ensuring you have at least some people that could go to war if needed. This explains why there's more legislative support and allowances for sports programs than say music or theater.
But why connect it to education? Why not make it general program for all ages? Why not encourage community run programs for teams consisting for example company workers, or local neighbourhood teams? The education ends very quickly and it is the older than that people who could really benefit from these activities.
They serve as a decent socioeconomic filter since many sports require the parents of the player to be of at least certain economic means.
I don't know why folks put down college sports. If you do 4 years on a D1 team, you can certainly call yourself an expert in that sport. They're not just messing around, they're learning and developing their skills.
They may not go pro or use that knowledge directly later in life, but neither do a lot of degree holders in their field.
> They're not just messing around, they're learning and developing their skills.
Yes, but almost universally at the expense of the education they are allegedly there to get. Especially D1 programs. That is why many of us don’t think it makes sense to tie it to education. To play at the level they are required to, they have to sacrifice their education. I think we all know how there are “football player classes” and curriculums designed to minimize school/education time and maximize their time for football.
Hell how many times have we seen scandals involving completely fake courses for athletes? UNC got in trouble for this in 2015 or so after decades of doing it. They were hardly the first and we all know it hasn’t stopped.
They can’t have both unless they lower the quality of the education received (which is pretty silly, considering they are at institution primarily designed around education) or lower the standards of competition for sports, which is never going to happen as long as one team wants a competitive advantage.
I'm guess asking: Why is 4 years of dedication to a sport (in at least the D1 context) not considered an education on its own?
I think the forms of education here are pretty darn distinct. Didn’t say it wasn’t worth it/wasn’t valuable. Same reason we have conservatories like with ballet.
You can definitely get degrees in ballet/dancing, though. There are plenty of universities specializing in performance arts.
Yes but those who want to perform often go to conservatories which are structured around the art/discipline first. We have no such equivalent for sports, except we sort of do and pretend they’re still there primarily for the education (basically every football team in the SEC).
Lots of places do all of those things. It does not need to be just one or the other.
That's true but an extremely small cohort, <100 per school, at only a few of the top sports schools.
I suspect you're thinking too narrowly on this one. Sure, there's football and basketball (women's as well as men's), plus soccer and baseball, too, in the team sports space. But there are also plenty of golfers and tennis players, including in many schools you've never heard of, that have, or believe they have, a decent chance of going pro.
> fields that don't truly need the education
Even if that's true, isn't part of the problem that a lot of those office jobs that don't absolutely need the knowledge still expect a bachelor's degree? Even if it was nothing more than "finishing school," you're going to have a hard time finding a job in HR, sales, etc. without college.
You are today, but that's because it is a signaling mechanism that you are a reasonably hard worker and willing to put up with bullshit. Also because practically everyone worth hiring has one.
This is not a stable equilibrium, though, when you couple it with the tremendous rise in prices.
What is meant by finishing school in this thread? I have a feeling this is not the definition being used https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Finishing_school
That's exactly what it's referring to, but in a derogatory way, and more gender-neutral. I.e., a place that teaches people how to act professional-class, how to have the correct opinions and prejudices, the correct conditioned responses, the correct verbal tics, and so on.
Yet in the meantime UCLA got 146K applications this year, and UCSD more than 130K. Students with 4.3+ weighted GPAs and 15+ APs still got rejected. UC's admission officers (AO) in their pubic talks made it clear that academic performance account for only 40% in admission, extracurricular activities another 40%, and personality 20%. So, UC systems give AOs 60% of the discretion! How is it different from the garbage Xiaolian System that Chinese used before the Tang dynasty? But I digressed. The point is the demand for top-tier university is nothing but higher.
it should generally have the long term effect of making a slightly lower ranked school better ranked in the long term because all the smart rejects go there.
I'm an engineer now, but am still very glad I had a liberal arts undergrad.
> under the guise of "becoming a lifelong learner" or something,
That's "finishing school for the [wannabe] elite" who find out at the end that they weren't ever in the elite.
4. Time spent outside the rat race without leaving a hole in your cv
> this completely cripples them in the future when they could otherwise have had great careers
> It's good that students are turning away now
Conspiracy theory: the powers that be, are not dumb, they know this, and rely in this to increase their stability by eliminating the competition and the ambitious. Scared people make bad decisions; their replacement for neutering-via-college is not likely to be as easy to deal with, so I donno about "good" as an adjective.
This seems really funny to me. There’s been a huge push by elites and right-leaning politicians in particular to downplay college education and to trot out blue-collar workers, to convince people not to go to college. Joe the Plumber, for example. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joe_the_Plumber
Conservatives and businesses want more people to take low-paying jobs, and having the masses be educated threatens their ability to pay minimum wage. The St. Louis Fed published statistics  demonstrating that people with 4-year degrees earn an average of twice what people who don’t go to college earn. That is a truly massive discrepancy, and completely surprised me when I read it. I would have assumed that degrees were maybe a 10% or 15% advantage statistically. That it’s double is astounding, and it really very much undermines the notion that somehow people are getting tricked into going to college.
(Note the title argues that college isn’t worth it. Read the statistics, they tell a completely different story. The headline is based on the idea that total savings at retirement came down somewhat for college educated people, and it completely neglects the fact that these savings are 2x larger than non-degree holders, and come after a lifetime of 2x higher salary.)
> Conservatives and businesses want more people to take low-paying jobs, and having the masses be educated threatens their ability to pay minimum wage.
Not having tradesman threatens the ability of society as we know it to continue. We aren't going to get far without carpenters and plumbers. These jobs simply need to pay more.
> and it really very much undermines the notion that somehow people are getting tricked into going to college.
It's also quite possible for them to come out of college $40k in debt, with no job to show for it, and end up struggling to pay that off for the rest of their lives.
Idk about the article though, it opens by saying this person had a free ride on the table. They probably should have taken it.
> These jobs simply need to pay more.
Totally agree! What can be done to get trade jobs to pay as much as white-collar desk jobs that require degrees?
> It’s also quite possible for them to come out of college $40k in debt, with no job to show for it, and end up struggling to pay that off for the rest of their lives.
It is possible, sure, but the data shows conclusively that you’re better off, statistically speaking, with a degree. The average outcome for degrees is double the salary and double the lifetime earnings. So if we’re going to talk about struggling, we need to be fair to the people who struggle to pay for food and housing, not just struggle to pay off their college debt. College debt has been going up, and that might be the reason that college educated people are having relatively less saved at retirement age as of late.
Anyway, yeah I agree about the anecdote too.
> So if we’re going to talk about struggling, we need to be fair to the people who struggle to pay for food and housing, not just struggle to pay off their college debt.
You don't think this overlaps? If you're coming out of college with no job to show for it, what is your job? You probably didn't prep for something substantial, because college was your career plan, and it bombed.
> The average outcome for degrees is double the salary and double the lifetime earnings.
I'm not sure averages are a useful metric for bi-modal distributions --- either you got a career out of the degree, with an increased salary, or you didn't. If you didn't, you're struggling right along with the people who never went to college. Possibly you're worse off, due to worse prep, and ofc you have your mountain of debt hanging over your head that will have major lifelong repercussions (assuming it doesn't get hand-waved away). So the way I see it, I'm talking exactly about those same people.
> Totally agree! What can be done to get trade jobs to pay as much as white-collar desk jobs that require degrees?
I don't know =(
I mean, there are forces at work right now equalizing things to some degree; lack of labor supply will drive up prices. But whether it will end somewhere reasonable, I'm not sure. And with workers across the board demanding wage hikes, inflation will continue to rise, returning us to square zero...
I do think comp needs to come down for some things like software development. I realize pay distribution here is bi-modal; I'm talking about the high-side, which is way out of whack. Really doesn't match the inherent utility at all, in my opinion. This would indirectly raise the value of lower comp positions (such as the trades).
What evidence is there that the distribution is bi-modal? I don’t believe that it is. It’s not bi-modal just because you imagined a threshold somewhere, it is only bi-modal if there’s a single large dip in the middle of the histogram.
The threshold you’re talking about, where college doesn’t pay off, might exist for a minority of people. Around 10% of people who take college loans go into default on them for example. But this threshold you’re talking about is not at the 50% line, it is much, much lower than that. The statistics do in fact show us that the majority of people who get a degree are better off. I’m surprised to be arguing this basic point, the stats from the Fed and from many other sources are very clear about this. Like just googling ‘is college worth it’ give you random blog posts that back this up, e.g., https://www.ramseysolutions.com/saving/is-college-worth-it. Here, “According to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, the median income for a high school graduate is $30,000, while those with a bachelor’s degree make around $52,000.” Please pay special attention to the word “median”. The article I linked is from the St Louis Fed, and keep in mind that it is arguing that college is becoming less worth it! (If/when you read it, don’t forget to think about what the absolute dollar earnings/savings are. The paper’s comparisons are mostly ratios and they can be & are misleading in spots.)
I’m not arguing that some people don’t end up in debt, I am pointing out the fact that most people fare better with a degree than without.
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If we're going to be cynical, then #4, the most common, which is 'post-secondary perfunctory education' basically 'advanced high school' which society 'expects' people to perform.
Someone pointed out the legitimacy of learning and expanding one's horizons, kind of the 'ideal' which I suggest does happen in most circumstances.
But #4 is the most common. 'It's the thing the upper 1/3 have to do'. So you half blindly pick a thing, and then get through it.
That said, not only do we need more 'apprenticiships' - we need more such professionalization in the white collar world as well, and the processs should be more organized. Like Germany.
I say this with not an ounce of envy, but the Ivy League cartels need to be broken up. There is way too much that we put into that symbol, it's just to momentus, it weighs like a finger on the scale and creates a kind of unhealthy elitism.
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I'd definitely explicitly add business to the first entry. Sure you can work in business without a degree, but the experience with the mathematics and ideas that you learn is definitely a huge benefit.
I don't think going to college can be easily summed up (and dismissed) with a numbered list of items. Sort of like saying marriage is just to have kids, get a tax benefit, and save on rent.
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I did one of those supposedly useless liberal arts programs and now work in a totally different field. But all the connections I made along the way are still super useful and I also gained a ton of other knowledge and skills along the way.
Would it be worth going into massive debt for? Probably not.
I do not think that what society needs is equal what the market needs. People with critical knowledge about society, philosophy, people that could question how good is the market deciding everything are not interesting to the market, but it is interesting to the society. Without publicly funded education, however, everything boils down to what the market decides.
_With_ publicly funded education, however, everything boils down to what some small group of unelected bureaucrats decide. That is arguably much worse.
It's also worth noting that most countries with totally free higher education emphatically do NOT allow just anyone to go study any major they like at taxpayer expense. Subjects that have few jobs waiting at the other end are strictly gated by intensely difficult entrance exams designed to weed out all but a small number of students, so that nobody wastes their time getting a degree in a topic where it is unlikely they can ever find employment.
Having been a victim of this type of fraud, I'd say definitively worse than arguably. There's no legal recourse, ITT tech showed the world you have to be able to afford lawyers for 15+ years, and even then you can only come to a settlement (not a verdict).
GE required physics at all of our local community colleges were structured so the pass rate was 12% one of those years. If student's can't pass without being academically dishonest, regardless of merit, its just state sponsored fraud.
> they could otherwise have had great careers in fields that don't truly need the education you get from a college.
What fields? I can't even get an interview for any job that isn't factory/grocery/warehouse because I don't have a degree. That useless piece of paper opens doors.
This is messed up and gendered today but when I went to school in the '90s people would add a 4th use, saying some women were in college to get their MRS (ie. just find somebody to marry). No clue if it's like that today. Also I don't get why a dude couldn't do the same thing.
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4. Extending adolescence 4 more years, slowing down the transition to full adulthood.
4. A socially acceptable excuse for spending a few years learning and doing interesting things, instead of focusing on something more productive in the short term.
When I was a student, it was a different time and place (20+ years ago in Finland), but this was a major motivation for many people. Some people didn't have the financial means to take advantage of that, some had too many social obligations, and some were simply not interested in learning. But for many, learning was a major reason for attending a university.
And this was not about the elite. In fact, studying a field with a clear professional identity and good prospects for a high-status high-paying job predicted having high-status professional parents and right-wing values. Studying a more academic field was a weaker predictor for left-wing values and middle-class parents. If anything, the elite saw higher education more as an investment, while the middle class was more likely to treat it as an opportunity to do interesting things.
There is truth to your jaded view, you can't just pay money to live on easy street. I had peers who just copied other peoples homework or other similarly self defeating behavior. They paid for education and chose not to get any. The paper degree doesn't have any value at all. It is the pain and agony of sipping on the firehouse of knowledge and the quite literal shared trauma of the whole experience that are the indicators of value.
The most important lesson I learned in college is just because something feels right doesn't mean it is. Just about everything has deep complexity and nuance. If I am not studied in a field, I am probably drawing conclusions from a place of ignorance.
Education is about suppressing our animal natures in order to have a better, more direct, more correct understanding of reality. Education is about destruction of delusions through systematic inquiry and critical thinking. Good education doesn't tell you what to think, but how to think, how to question yourself. It explains why things are the way they are. It is one thing to say "we stand on the shoulders of giants." But it is truly an experience to actually see the giants that we stand on.
Once you spend time outside of the US you learn about the value of education. You learn about high trust vs low trust societies. You learn that people with simple views of the world produce poverty and strife. Educated people outside of the US want to immigrate to the US because of our educated population. They want to escape the consequences of their poorly educated neighbors. The mark of an uneducated person is that they think they are experts in fields they are not. Educated peopled don't want to be around that. Educated people don't want to be ruled by that. Educated people want to be around other educated people.
Before you indict college education, I would encourage you to visit several poor countries and ask yourself why they are the way they are. It's obviously not as simple as poor education, but thinking about how education relates to poverty at a societal level and how education influences a society from a systemic perspective might improve your opinion of education.
I took an engineering path, but when I think back on what I value from my education, it's not the technical training.
I was handed opportunities I never would have had otherwise, access to some of the top experts in the world, and freedom proportional to the level of responsibility I took. College was the first time in my life I was ever around peers or people I considered smarter than myself.
I am sad that your experience with education has produced the grim view of education being purely functional, I believe college is truly what you make of it.
> almost all of whom will lose and be saddled with 6 figures of debt and 7 figures of opportunity cost
Not quite so for immigrants who are likely prevalent (or close) in grad schools.
A university is where you go to be exposed to the most correct way of thinking that we have.
Sure, they offer other services, and the administrations of these institutions have turned them into capitalist hellscapes which warp even the original service, but the ultimate point of a university is an apprenticeship. Just in thinking instead of plumbing.
This is what education should be, and everyone should receive it. I am not convinced of the value of pre-university education, so perhaps we should just do it earlier.
It doesn't scale the way a business typically scales. You can't automate it or fit it under an ever lengthening hierarchy, but it does in fact scale incredibly well.
Everyone who is taught to think better can teach others to think better.
The market is not correcting itself. The market is destroying the premise of a university.
I agree completely but wanted to add a fourth point, which is that college is a necessary stepping stone for most professional sports.
0. A four-year recruitment and placement agency.
Might be considered part of #2, but "feeder program for professional athletes" would be another goal for some.
Or #1 possibly...
The whole American college athletics thing is crazy, and almost completely disjointed from the rest of what "college" is.
"The market is correcting itself". It seems Adam Smith's Invisible Hand has left no stone unturned but the paradox is that soon his ideas, along with those of Keynes, Marx, Ricardo, Galbraith and Friedman will only be familiar to the elites who can afford a purely academic education which we, here in the UK, received free for 25 years after 1962. The rest will be chasing their accountancy or AI qualifications, discussing quantitative techniques in the Students Union bar instead of arguing about current affairs and joining campaigns. A sad contrast with the colourful intellectual climate of the 70s in UK universities. I returned to visit my old university recently only to find the campus full of soul-less franchises and real refectories replaced with a single pay-as-you-go food outlet. The post-it-note-plastered walls of the Students Union I knew have gone, replaced with framed commercial advertising. The population has increased four-fold since I was there yet the Philosophy department is threatened with closure. I kinda knew I had it good while I was there but not how good. I watched Thatcher's reforms gradually erode the student grant in the 80s but no-one could have predicted university life would end-up where it is now with students dependent on unscrupulous landlords hiking rents well above what student loans will cover.
The payoff to the finishing school part is different if you’re not in the US where the cost is now insane.
4) Finding spouse of similar background
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The top three benefits of college have nothing to do with anything you mentioned.
Unfortunately, Its almost a certainty that you're wrong about this.
They realize #3 has subsumed both #1 and #2 with the added twist of inescapable debt slavery with no deterministic way to complete those degrees. Education is no longer an investment, its a casino with the house winning 80% of the distribution.
I'm sure you've heard about weed-out classes where people fail not because of lack of knowledge, but from structure.
Apprenticeships are the only alternative to Professional certifications or educational degrees as job qualifiers.
The latter two options both have subsumed their original primary purpose and have exchanged those purposes for an overarching profit motive instead while stripping due process and agency.
If you know the material you should be able to pass no problem which is what people pay for when they go to college, but instead they are basically bait and switched which is a form of fraud, with no legal recourse in this case.
I'm sure some may argue that you can always sue, but look at ITT tech. (https://www.forbes.com/sites/edwardconroy/2022/02/24/report-...).
I know people who have repeatedly failed Mechanics (Physics), while acing multiple heavy math courses above multivariate calculus.
Their biggest complaints were non-deterministic questions being asked on those tests, and structural course elements that induce causality spirals.
Example of the first being material the material taught is different from what was being tested with no adequate preparation, or in the case of inference there being multiple correct answers without enough information provided to deterministically come to a single correct answer, or in the case of heuristics where you build a context (or initial set of conditions) and that context should only lead to one answer but has multiple correct answers (with some uncommunicated assumption). They were all extremely upset because the tests amount to guesses, and some have repeated the same course every semester with different professors (same structural elements) over 3-5 years, even going so far as to take the course at different district colleges (same structural issues) before dropping out entirely due to the additional financial burden with no path forward.
Examples of the latter being, the answer of the second problem is dependent on the correct answer to the first, the answer of the third problem is dependent on the correct answer to the second. An arbitrarily uncommunicated rounding scheme guarantees most fail.
It might seem from the way I've said this that they just gave up, but it wasn't from lack of trying. Some escalated this from the Chairperson, to the Dean, to the Board of Directors over several years. Ultimately, no corrective action was taken, and its not a new story.
This is why people are generally not going to college and opting for other consistent options.
There is a calibration test in physics education called the Force Concept Inventory. Was this administered to any of these individuals?
I'll have to reach out and ask, my guess is no it was never administered.
We had a physics support group that was trying to change these practices for a long while. I haven't heard anything recently from them so they may have disbanded but the organizer had been working on changing this for our local community colleges since 2002, and it was active in 2013.
I can say as of 2014 they did not administer that, if it matches the youtube video here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SR3ZF7jrk8o, if that were all, almost all of us would have passed. That would have been my 6th or 7th attempt at it, average pass rate for the department that year averaged 12% for the required GE transfer classes.
There were hundreds who could have been engineers, who either ended up changing their majors, being academically dishonest, or realized the futility and dropped out for professional pursuits (IT) like myself.
I'd run into two similar roadblocks, one in trigonometry (6 times), the other in physics.
A lot of good multivariate calculus and linear algebra will do me since I gave up and went into IT when I could no longer self-fund.
Its ironic that I got the top award for the department-wide egg-drop lab contest for best design (3 item egg drop surviving 4 stories), and yet could not pass the course, and maxed out my tutor center schedule, and got a private tutor.
I ended up cutting my losses at something like $42k in expenses over two decades before leaving for a professional line of work.
Almost everyone in the group was first time college, or self-funding for a pipe-dream.
I'm not bitter but I am upset that the fraud the administrators, staff, board of directors, and professors perpetrated on their students was allowed to continue without punishment or correction. Fraud isn't a new thing in education, as the ITT tech fraud has dragged out its battle for almost two decades.
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You forgot 4. Party sex camp.
> A lot of people have been tricked into going to general education and liberal arts college programs (the finishing school parts) without the money to pay in full under the guise of "becoming a lifelong learner" or something
This rush for everybody to complete a college education arguably wasn't caused by some kind of natural cultural phenomenon, but was an artificial intervention in the employment market. The Supreme court case Griggs v. Duke Power Company was a landmark employment discrimination case decided by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1971. Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, high school diplomas and intelligence test scores such as IQ tests were judged to be no longer allowed to be used as prerequisites for employment.
In an environment where companies are scared of testing IQs and easily proving a job-seekers basic competency, it's easy to see how a "college degree" became the standard proxy for proving basic competency and somebody having the ability to be trained for a non-trivial job.
And as a society, that's been a jaw-droppingly awful trade. Rather than take maybe a few tests when you start to look for a white collar job: we've compelled all of of our youth to attend at least 4 years of education that they usually don't need (wasting 4 years of income-earning potential), and to go deep into debt as the basic standard of life. This has many unbelievably negative second order effects on the world, including drastic consequences for the most responsible people starting families.
As someone who has worked two of the most intensive blue collar jobs, people should be wary of romanticizing blue collar work.
Blue collar workers are expected to really work at their jobs. White collar workers can chill if there is no work to be done, or be sent home early with pay, or take a relaxation day and just browse the internet and listen to podcasts. They have perks, you see white collar workers leaving work early to attend baseball games and do fun activities with their colleagues.
Indeed, some white collar workers are so "underworked" they can literally work multiple full time remote jobs. Blue collar guys can't work remote, so expect to pay for child care and endure the mourning commute.
Blue collar workers aren't necessarily paid based on merit, this is formally true if you work in a union-shop where promotions are primarily based on tenue; if non-union there may be no promotion path for most workers because management has a "fresh meat for the grinder" approach to entry level staffing.
From a social perspective people don't respect blue collar workers. Believe that nobody who writes think pieces praising blue collar workers wants their daughters dating a blue collar worker or wants their children becoming them.
At the risk of sounding like a terrible person, I'd like to be honest for a second about why I went to college, which is to avoid this exactly reality that you just laid out.
I enlisted in the military after finding college to be too boring for my taste. 3 months later I found myself doing the hardest manual labor of my life on a riverboat for the Coast Guard. The pay was not great and nobody cared if you didn't feel like working or were exhausted. The system (as is the military) is not merit based and the guys at the top were pretty awful to the ones at the bottom. By contrast, the officers in the coast guard had nice offices, nice crisp uniforms, nice private rooms, nice private dining quarters, ect. And the difference between those two (enlisted and officer) is a college degree.
What I learned is that I did not want to be an enlisted man. It's a lot of very hard work for little pay and even the highest enlisted man is still saluting the lowest officer.
This was enough to galvanize me to go to college and finish as quickly as I could.
Blue collar jobs are not for everyone. They were not for me. I realize the Coast Guard is not a perfect microcosm of the real world, but in a lot of ways it is. Now that I have the white collar job, I still chuckle at "mental health days" and people complaining about being "burnt out". I chuckle because I remember those days on the river, baking in the hot sun after working for 36 hours straight and how much we all would have laughed until we cried if those words had come out of someone's mouth.
You don't sound at all like a terrible person, in fact I think this is a fairly common experience. My grandpa told me a very similar story about freezing his ass off in a far north oil town and seeing how the foremen lived compared to him. That spurred him to go to college and live a much nicer life.
I went through a smaller version of that myself, working at a shitty job in the lifeguard in the hot sun as a teen. Saw people who were 30 or 40 still working there. I knew I did not want it to be me. Got a degree, ended up at an underpaid part time office job, starting at 6 am every morning. But a few guys there had full time jobs that paid well and started at 9. Those were the programmers. Decided that was the road to go, went back to school and joined the good life.
Not too different a story here. I worked for a roofing company through college. It was a good job in many ways. It was a union shop so benefits/safety/etc were great, and journeyman scale was actually more than I make now. It would have been a great gig through my twenties, but I had coworkers tell me over and over to stay in school and that I didn't want to end up like them.
I got a degree in Math and a minor in CS thanks to income based scholarships, but ended up bouncing around for a while in various IT and computer adjacent jobs not making a ton of money, and not loving being cooped up inside, so I sometimes wonder if I'd have been better off just accepting a apprenticeship, but I've been working towards "the good life" as you say, so in the long run I think college will have been the right choice.
I was dropping fry baskets and doing IT work for $5 an hour at a restaurant when I was 12 years old. Unfortunately I wasn't cognizant enough at that age to determine my career trajectory on the basis of which type of work I enjoyed... it was more that I was a lot better at configuring networking on the computer in the back than I was at making Reubens as a line cook.
Both can still be valid.
Mental health days are good, and burn out is a real phenomenon.
It's a shame that blue collar workers don't have access to these facilities, and yes office workers are by and large 'softer' than blue collar workers. But we should fight corporations and organisations to provide those facilities for everyone, and not pick sides in a working class debate (not that you did that).
All paid workers real enemy is the capital class, and we should never forget that.
>All paid workers real enemy is the capital class, and we should never forget that.
I totally agree with you up to this point, so just want to explain why i disagree with this particular point.
I want better treatment for all humans, and I agree that some of the "capital class" is actively fighting this, but some is actively helping it as well. For example, I think Bill Gates, the Collison Brothers, and some of the Kennedy's have been a large net positive on humankind. Perhaps those examples aren't perfect, but at the very least we can imagine somebody belonging to the "capital class" that also helps improve conditions for everyone. I think anyone that's trying to improve the human condition is a friend.
Well one can argue those are cherry picked examples.
But even if they aren't, it's still a problem that those people decide who they contribute to, instead of the billion dollar businesses paying their fair share to the democratic state, who then has accountability to invest in their stakeholders - the citizens.
The people can do good things, but in an exploitative manner?. Earning billions off the labor of others and then giving back is still not moral in my eyes. And I think it's an exception to the rule any way that any in the capital class produce a net benefit to society.
I don't think profit necessarily implies exploitation. People could make billions while also helping the labor class, and then give back to society. Think of things that improve safety, efficiency, or extend human life -- fire extinguishers, farm implements, some medicines, etc. I'm sure people make money off of these, but I'm still thankful to them. You may be right that most of the capital class is not a net benefit. Nonetheless, I think this kind of broad generalization just distracts us from the real goal of improving human lives.
I rather disagree and think this discourse is both beneficial and necessary. This comment really feels dubious and is the exact definition of the Noble Lie.
Elite is the same in any system. Be it feudal of the old or ruling class in socialismus-comunismus implementations. That’s just a part of any group of animals.
Ah yes, going into work every day sneering at your employer as they are your true mortal enemy, sounds like a perfect way to live.
I am assuming that since you think this, you don't have a job?
You got me!
I live in a yurt in mongolia.
Ah yes, the capital class that enables me to have a cushy office job in the first place. So evil. /s
You’re certainly right that people casually complain of burnout long before it has reached medical significance, but it isn’t just some imaginary condition. Burnout seems like the brain equivalent of overexertion injuries. In full form it seems rather similar to battle fatigue.
Much of how humans handle their own suffering is determined by their world view. Knowledge workers tend to have a view that we should never be uncomfortable in our jobs. Ever. For a lot of blue collar workers, being uncomfortable is just part of the job. Watch one episode of "Deadliest Catch" to see this in action. A lot of blue collar work is "comfortable being uncomfortable".
Anyone that hasn't done manual labor really has no idea how rough it can be. I worked as an office-furniture-mover in my early 20s (Summers in college), and some days were pretty tough. Granted, that's pretty low on the manual labor skills spectrum, but even for a guy in prime physical shape, it's tiring and has elements of danger.
Now that I'm double that age, the manual labor I've done like rewiring my house, installing all my own HVAC equipment, and all the yard work for a large property is much harder. I stay sore for days, and it's easy to push too hard to get something done and get injured or overwork my body to where my heart rate stays elevated for hours.
There's something to be said for working with your brain. The worst days dealing with idiot product management and never-ending Jira tickets don't compare to unloading a truck in a hot warehouse or kneeling in a crawlspace for hours re-piping a sewer line.
I don’t think anyone idealizes those kind of physical labor jobs. Usually “the trades” is much more skilled manual labor: plumbing, hvac, welding, specialized mechanic work and repair, woodworking/carpentry, etc.
No one says people should want a life of a mover, meatpacker, or ditch digger.
There are various levels of 'suck' along a spectrum, but many of the trades you listed are no picnic, especially when you're low man on the totem pole. HVAC work involves hauling heavy equipment that has sharp edges and spending good chunks of time in hot attics or dank crawlspaces. Most carpenters aren't boutique craftsman of expensive furniture; they are straddling joists holding a heavy nail gun above their head for hours. Plumbing...well, I think you can imagine the unpleasant jobs there.
It's easy to only look at the top level workers: owners that have young guys to boss around and/or tradesman that have built enough reputation/savings to decline jobs they don't want.
None of this is to say the skilled trades can't be a great career. The work is usually honest, rewarding, and a good mix of mental and physical. Most tradesman are able to work on their own house/car or they have buddies that will help for cheap (and reciprocity). I'm sure many would trade places with the upper tier paid software engineers in a heartbeat, however.
I think that's a cultural thing.
In Australia, trade workers are very highly paid and generally very well respected in society (even day labourers).
In fact many envy 'tradies' as they're called, because they can outearn white-collar workers pretty easily.
I believe there was a comment on here earlier about how surfer tradies were the preferred partners of female doctors.
By surfer do you just mean "a tradesperson who surfs for fun", or is there a slang meaning there?
Literally tradespeople that surf when the breaks are good.
Good job, good income, fit and healthy.
The idea that plumbers/hvac/welders etc don't have physical wear and tear is also a myth that needs dispelled.
Indeed, I've talked to a number of 20-something tradespeople in these fields and many of them already have back problems. I think if you go into the trades, you need to plan your career carefully and plan on stepping into management or business ownership by the time you reach middle age. They are hard jobs.
One old timer welder once told me there's a good reason you don't see many people like him (old welders).
The end of Office Space did. Not that the ending was too serious a take, but I think there was at least a little sincerity to the idea that physical labor might be more enjoyable than a desk job for some people.
There are upsides, like a certain degree of pride from really feeling like you worked hard and going to bed truly tired. Those are the things I miss about that kind of job.
Going to bed as that particular kind of tired was just awesome.
In better shape too. Some jobs wear you out. But being on your feet all day and doing moderate heavy lifting is far better for your health than sitting down all day.
Maybe for the first decade but it's nearly impossible to avoid accumulating injuries and eventually chronic pain or disability over a whole career.
>The worst days dealing with idiot product management and never-ending Jira tickets don't compare to unloading a truck in a hot warehouse or kneeling in a crawlspace for hours re-piping a sewer line.
damn i can only imagine
I feel your pain. I worked in a furniture warehouse and delivered furniture, summers, in Phoenix.
I think the article is basically about the opposite of romanticising blue-collar work. It's laying out how apprenticeships are already producing white-collar workers. In fact I don't think the existence of blue collar work is very apparent to the writer of this article, I don't know where have you seen any praise of blue collar work unless you've assumed it from the title.
However from the article it's clear that those apprenticeships remain tied to an older model of apprenticeship that doesn't seek to replace most of University, and most of University needs getting replaced more than reformed.
This comment seems out of place because most of the article was describing apprenticeships for white collar jobs, and listed a bunch of white collar industries removing their college requirements.
Most people just read the headline and jump to conclusions
With the economic downturn coming, companies are really going to ask themselves who's necessary. Those white collar workers that have plenty of leisure time are going to suddenly be out of work, and will be forced into the blue collar market, only they are going to have to compete with blue collar workers that have been in the market for many more years than they have. Guess who the company's are going to hire...
As for the white collar workers that made the cut, their job isn't going to be as cozy. You're trading in back-breaking work for mental-straining work with severe time constraints.
There won't be many jobs. With the boon of cheap cash trade workers also cashed in, way overcharging for work that was half as much just a decade ago. But now home sales are grinding to a halt. Cash is no longer cheap. People can no longer cash in on their equity with rates rising. Already I've had work quotes half what they were just last year.
There's a reason many children of blue collar workers were told to go to college. Now we might need to readjust that thinking and balance it better. But it came from a place of understanding how hard that life can be.
As someone who has taught college, off and on, for many years, people should also be wary of romanticizing college.
The question is always "relative to what?"
Anyway, the move towards apprenticeships has arguably been underway for years: https://seliger.com/2017/06/16/rare-good-political-news-boos...
It shouldn't be unrealistically romanticized, but with University tuitions only reaching ever higher, much faster than inflation what other good solution is there for Young Adults to get a career and secure their financial future? These options being elevated precisely because of out of control student debt and universities which face zero consequences to financially crippling their pupils.
well we made university free in New Mexico, and it's free or cheap in a lot of other places.
That’s great. I’m trying to figure out how it’s funded. Did they have to raise new funding? Levy new taxes? Just wondering how they are able to afford it. I feel like this is how colleges should be. The minimal possible tuition required to operate. It’s not like tuition increases have gone towards retaining professors or something.
It’s pretty insane to think 15k/year for in state tuition is “cheap.”
Edit: it seams like it’s at least partially funded by lottery tickets. Which essentially means it’s just prioritized higher than other states. Because most states find things through lottery tickets but don’t have tuition free college.
New Mexico (and a lot of other states) has had a lottery funded scholarship for decades. We've had an oil boom for a few years and yeah mostly funded the remainder through oil revenues/permanent fund.
But yes the fundamental notion is that we decided to fund it. And that's replicable anywhere, i promise, New Mexico is q bottom 3 poorest state in the country but we decided that college was important. Florida is awful in a lot of ways but when I lived there in the mid 00's the Sunshine State Scholarship covered 100% tuition and was automatically granted for like a B+ average, an A and some community service would get you room and board.
Though when I said other places i meant non-US places.
That said, it's not uncommon to be able to find good blue collar jobs with good employers.
A friend of mine worked a really shitty job for a year, to finally find a much more cushy job, but it's graveyard shift. Eventually they'll put him on day shift. But in the mean time he's earning for his family, he doesn't have to do much work, and he's studying for a degree at night.
If you pick the right field, you have the right skills, and are in a hot market, trades can be very lucrative and you can be drowning in contacts. For someone who wants to be their own boss it can be very rewarding.
If I was rich I would still make sure my kids worked at least one blue collar job in their teens. There's no substitute for first-hand experience in that world.
My Dad made me do this. We were well off, but he pushed me to "get a job" to buy a computer so I could study for college. I worked as a janitor and construction labourer. Taught me right quick that I DEFINITELY wanted to pursue a degree in engineering or computer science.
By contrast, my brother was never pushed in this way. He went to school, got good grades, finished his degree, and then just... never worked. He's a "yet to be successful" writer now. Goodness bless his wife's heart for supporting him, cause no one else will (ironic too, cause she's blue collar).
Doing some real labour early on in life distills work ethic into someone. What is shocking is how lazy people will turn out if they aren't given that push early on so they learn what's what.
That’s pretty much all high school kids are qualified for. With some exception. Well, unskilled labor at least. Not quite synonymous with blue color but close.
While this is all true, the article is about white collar apprenticeships.
Found the guy who actually read the article!
While agreeing with all your points, I think blue collar jobs will get their mojo back soon, especially something not a repeat work, as they will be one of the few jobs that will remain after LLM and AI has automated most of the desk jobs (or at least severely reduced the number of people needed to be employed in them).
It’s also far more durable. Your startup might disappear in a downturn but your furnace won’t.
Depends on the job I think. Every person I know who does any type of home contracting work that I know of is drowning in business and raising rates because of it.
- General Contractor
- Drywall specialists
My millenial aged kid became an electrician. Mostly residential. Mostly remodel (vs new construction). The type of clientile that want fancy lights and legit security systems. And now early adopters of solar, batteries, and EVs.
He'll have plenty of work for decades.
It is hard on the body though. Which is why he stayed residential. So he claims; I would have guessed new construction commercial would easiest physically. Especially if you specialize (eg elevators).
Exactly. This is why every tradesman I know wants their kids to go to college.
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Its going to be fascinating how the preference for WFH affects the job market. I'd imagine on-location jobs to get paid more as supply dries up and everyone wants to work from home. Teachers/nurses/chefs were underpaid before, little wonder there is a shortage now, I expect they need much higher wages.
If you're in the nurse or chef employment market then I don't think you'll be affected by the WFH trend in white collar work. We already have a shortage of nurses and pay is stagnant.
Teacher salaries aren’t so flexible. It will just result in lowering the hiring standards.
If it requires a license or certification then it’s generally a well paying career with options for the ambitious. It’s why you see so many small shops because it’s very accessible to start your own business after gaining years of experience, reputation, and connections.
I think we need to be careful about romanticizing chilling on the job and being sent home early because there is no work. None of that sounds remotely sustainable and if that is your experience I recommend improving your situation as soon as possible.
You are romanticizing white collar jobs as much as you claim people do blue collar ones.
Isn't it a false dichotomy to suggest that a degree exclusively leads to white collar jobs and no degree leads to blue collar jobs?
I worked in a call center for a while. I'd call it light blue collar work. You don't get to listen to podcasts but these days you might get a remote position. Physical risk is mostly limited to RSI I guess.
A call center is probably as opposite of blue collar as it gets. The term “blue collar” comes from the blue collards shirts factory and industrial workers used to wear, and is now synonymous with manual labor. There is nothing remotely close to manual labor at a call center. You just had the lowest tier of a white collar job.
The similarity is around control of the workers time in a 'production line' fashion. (I have also worked in a factory on a line).
You're correct about the origin of the term now collar. In places where deindustrialization has cleared out most production jobs, call center work is one of the things that replaced them.
One of the reason is that blue collar workers ceded their leverage and bargaining power to unions, that not necessarily have their best interest in mind - unions work in their own interest and that depends on how well corporations can tip that interest in their favour using brown envelopes and other ways.
At the same time the power of workers being able to create their own business and sell their services have been eroded over time, to the point that in some countries it is so regulated it is almost impossible for the workers to organise in small businesses providing services.
Rant: I feel like most people haven't really thought about why colleges are so expensive now. It is because of the federally guaranteed student loans. It means there's pretty much no downside to banks loaning an arbitrarily large amount, because if the student doesn't pay it back, the government will. And since most 18 year old students have pretty much zero price sensitivity, and they now have unlimited funds, colleges are free to charge whatever they need to entice students to come to their college. No expense needs to be spared.
If people really cared about letting disadvantaged students go to college, they would figure out a way to give them scholarships or grants. Federally guaranteed student loans are a horrible and predatory idea and they are ruining young peoples' financial futures. If you just took away the guarantee on the loans, and made them dischargable in bankruptcy, colleges would be forced to compete on price again, and the price of college would start to drop.
Also, if the colleges give out a certain amount of grants to students who can't afford the artificially high tuition, they become non-profits and can bank all that cash into their endowments. That's really the why of tuition hikes. Greed. Thanks MIT who took this to the supreme court in 91 and fucked all future generations!
And their endowment is over 25 billion.... And why again, are their salaries lower than industry again?
The amount of tuition that the incoming Freshman class pays is more than enough to pay for all other edu classes expenses.
>It means there's pretty much no downside to banks loaning an arbitrarily large amount, because if the student doesn't pay it back, the government will.
Obama administration ended this in 2010:
The problem that remained, of course, is the federal government itself lends students a blank check as long as the check is deposited at an “accredited” university.
Am I crazy or did Biden just try to pay for a bunch of student loans? Legality still pending AFAIK. Just because Obama may have ended one policy doesn’t mean they aren’t backstopped by the government.
Either way the point remains that the debt cannot be dispelled through bankruptcy which makes them less risky for banks.
>Just because Obama may have ended one policy doesn’t mean they aren’t backstopped by the government.
Yes, it does. Since 2010, a lender will not be paid by the government if the borrower defaults.
>the debt cannot be dispelled through bankruptcy
Yes, they can.
Aren't most student loans already loaned directly by Sally Mae / the government? Private loans aren't the issue afaik.
Yes, I wrote that in my original response above.
> Am I crazy or did Biden just try to pay for a bunch of student loans?
Forgive, not pay for.
> Legality still pending AFAIK.
Oral arguments were heard by the Supreme Court a few weeks ago.
> the debt cannot be dispelled through bankruptcy
It can, actually, though it's difficult.
It’s forgiveness, but it will still cost federal money, correct? https://www.npr.org/2022/09/27/1125272287/student-loan-forgi...
It would cost in the same sense that it costs to lower the tax rate: a lower amount of future payments to the federal government from that particular revenue source.
Of course, a lot of student loan debt will never be paid anyway for various reasons, such as deferment, default, or death of the borrower.
Loan forgiveness won't result in any immediate payments from the federal government, because these loans are held by the federal government rather than by banks, something that a lot of people seem to misunderstand. The payments were already made years ago when the loans were disbursed.
There would be no payments from the treasury so no direct cost for the government. The "cost" would be an opportunity cost of collecting payments. Which from a government perspective is offset by the spending and savings in the broader economy for not collecting those payments.
Therefor still pending.
Yes. I was just adding some detail. We don't know exactly when the court will decide, but the case has been heard.
Fully agree. And to continue this, I think one step that would be accepted across the aisle (in lieu of total debt forgiveness) is to either severely cut or get rid of interest rates on school loans.
The compound interest working against students is a major part of the predation in these loans.
But banks need to make money? Have a one-time interest tacked onto the total loan amount that doesn’t change over time.
This incentivize banks to not loan out as much to just about anyone, and thereby forcing schools to spend less on frivolous staffing and social issues/needless expansion.
Then, slowly reduce the federal student loan amounts to some arbitrarily low amount, something enough for someone on the median salary to comfortably pay back if they went to a state school.
Blue collar jobs are in desperate need of apprenticeships. And there’s good money to be made. But it is legit hard, physical work. And work that needs to get more respect, because without it, water doesn’t run, lights don’t turn on, roads crumble, and buildings aren’t built.
> Fully agree. And to continue this, I think one step that would be accepted across the aisle (in lieu of total debt forgiveness) is to either severely cut or get rid of interest rates on school loans.
I dont understand how you agree with the post yet come to this conclusion. If debt is the source of the problem why encourage more of it? The point is colleges can always raise prices because students can just take out bigger loans. This gets worse if you get rid of interest rates.
You also put a cap that the median income worker can pay off reasonably. So anything above would need private loans
Getting rid of interest on loans dramatically changes incentives.
On loans with interest, the debtor is incentivized to pay as much as they can as quickly as they can to bring the principal (and resulting interest) down.
On loans without interest, the debtor is incentivized to pay as little as possible and let inflation bring down the value of the principal.
> But banks need to make money? Have a one-time interest tacked onto the total loan amount that doesn’t change over time.
Again, as a student, wouldn't it make more sense for me to just not pay for like a decade and wait for inflation to halve the real value of the loan?
Am I the only one who want government intervention on college fees?
> If people really cared about letting disadvantaged students go to college
> If you just took away the guarantee on the loans, and made them dischargable in bankruptcy, colleges would be forced to compete on price again
You'd also see many people couldn't afford college because they wouldn't be approved for the loan without the federal guarantee. I feel like the solution is universal education, we dance around it because it's not politically feasible but it's the solution. Set some rules around who can attend (grades, testing, etc). Setting reimbursement rates will control costs (like Medicare does). Force the universities to collect from the government (like hospitals do). Force 'quality control'/compliance on education standards (also expected of hospitals).
> Rant: I feel like most people haven't really thought about why colleges are so expensive now. It is because of the federally guaranteed student loans.
I've heard this thousands and thousands of times. I suspect that most people have heard it already too.
> It means there's pretty much no downside to banks loaning an arbitrarily large amount, because if the student doesn't pay it back, the government will.
This is a misunderstanding of the current student loan system, which is mostly direct loans from the federal government rather than private bank loans. That's why student loan forgiveness by the federal government is a current issue.
Upvoted, but I have a slight difference as to the best way to help the underprivileged: it’s better to just give money without any strings or designated purposes. This preserves the full competition and downward cost pressure since people can always use some or all of the money elsewhere.
If you provide funding (loans or cash) that is earmarked, then it serves as a price floor and upward cost pressure on that thing.
Let’s just give everybody $20k per year between ages 18-22, with no strings.
Yea, pretty much entirely due to the loan system. It’s also sustains worthless departments.
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I have been programming for a Fortune 500 company for four years. Not long ago, I applied for a job at another Fortune 500 company. HR really had only question for me, they saw on my resume I did not have a college degree listed, and did I have one? I said I went through most of college towards a Bachelors in Computer Science but dropped out before graduation. I did not get the job, although I don't know if that's why. Same thing has happened in the past with other HR departments. It's not completely fatal, but it's not helpful either, rather the opposite.
I went to a good state school and didn't rack up any debt while going to college.
In recent headier times, a BSCS was a preferred requirement. In the current environment, I can easily see job listings on Linkedin that say a BSCS is a minimum requirement.
It's just another stumbling block that can be in your path. Some people don't have a problem with it in their career, and in headier times it doesn't matter, but when layoffs are happening as they are now, and companies are flooded with dozens or hundreds of resumes, an easy thing to do is just look who has a BSCS and who doesn't and put the latter in the wastebasket.
I got my degree at 35 because of this. Not that I actually learned much of anything in the program, I was there purely for the paper.
This is where schools like WGU excel for those of us just seeking credentials for what we already know. The terms are six months, you can do as many courses as you want during that six months. Over half the courses are just a final exam. You take a pre-test on day one of the course. If you score high enough, you can take the final exam the same day and be done with the course. If one were very determined and knew most of the material going in, you could complete a BS in six months for a total cost of under $4000.
+1 for WGU for explicitly getting the paperwork done. I've recommended this to self-taught peers, vets, and those with uncommon backgrounds who had to deal with paperwork bias.
Congratulations on your degree, happy to see other folks take advantage of WGU. It's really good
"seeking credentials for what we already know"
Not about you at all in particular (quite the opposite), but this is what drives me into a frenzy of frustration about the world today. Seems like everything is about credentials and appearance rather than obvious potential or ability.
On the other hand, if you reek of obvious potential and ooze ability from every pore, and WGU can get you a degree in six months, why don’t you have that credential?
Credentials don’t really prove ability, but there’s a weird staying power that can come from the “minimum bar” it sets.
Easy, I don't want to pay $4000 to someone who provided me no benefit, gave me negative value because I already wasted my time just completing the exams.
In what world would you donate 1 - 5 weeks pay just for the honor of it? I'm not sure plumbers are around here to give you a plaque that says "My toilet is working" for your house guests to ogle at.
Yes, I understand that the credential is what removes us from candidacy in job applications, and I also understand that this has a cost benefit to the employee that may exceed $4000 on it's own. But should things be that way? My thinking is no speaking on the employee's side.
On the other end it is obvious that at minimum credentials proves to the employer that the employee is at least 4 years old and can read enough to fool another 4 year old. I guess it is also cheaper to filter through thousands of infants who otherwise do not have the same credential. So maybe I'm just pissing into the wind.
Pre college being a requirement there was still some sort of evaluation the company had to do to decide if you were a good candidate, from their perspective college graduates show more promise and potential. Just as someone applying to college shows more potential of being a good fit to the college if they scored highly on their SAT exam. Is it fair that someone who likely has all the other criteria also has to sit through the embarrassment of an SAT exam when they’re so obviously qualified? Yes. Because that’s a way that universities have found to fairly and easily find good candidates.
Did you do WGU? How long did getting a degree take start to finish? Did you have pre-credits?
I did go to WGU. It took me way too long. Over 4 years because I put almost zero effort in and did most everything at the end of the 6 month term. I wasn't much motivated to do the courses as I was battling depression, dealing with a wife and child with health issues, and was the sole breadwinner.
I would estimate that I put in less than 500 hours total towards my degree. I had like 15 pre-credits.
You're a champion. Well done getting your degree while yoked that hard.
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When I hired people at a former company, I secretly thought of job candidates like you as undervalued stocks. Just being honest, don't mean any disrespect — I mean undervalued in the sense of not being appreciated by other companies, not in how much we paid people.
I myself have degrees, but not in anything like software development, and I think engineers who don't have degrees but do exhibit all the other characteristics are just as talented, often more driven, practical, and reliable. Self-motivated, rather than something they fell into. Thinking of the five best engineers I've worked with, two of them didn't go to school at all, and two had degrees in things like music or political science. I've had poor experiences with people whose main qualification is an engineering diploma from a name brand school.
Of course there's a middle band in there where it gets more complicated, but generally I think smart, scrappy companies are eager to hire people like yourself, and I like working for that kind of company, personally.
The problem is finding those undervalued assets, sifting through a sea of unacceptable candidates.
A job opened on my team where I am working at as contractor. My boss told me to apply for the job.
I got an email back right away from HR stating that I didn't meet the requirements of having a degree.
Joke's on them, I already work there.
I had a similar situation where the lack of a specific degree algorithmicly sorted me out of a job where i was not only an expert in some extremely vertical tech, but a known person within the industry for the tech and probably the only person in my metro area with the ability currently looking for new opportunities.
After I got the rejection email i called their HR and asked to just lay my resume on the desk of the COO abd was told “no can do because i wasn’t qualified”
I got so frustrated that their HR dept was so tone deaf, I decided the org was a bad fit for me.
Later on had connected with one of the executives after I moved on to another org and an industry expo. Told him the story and he was horrified that they missed the opportunity.
The moral to the story is you need to get via networking if you don’t have a degree thanks to the rigidity of HR nowadays.
I am not sure which is more amazing: that someone informed you in a timely fashion that you were no longer under consideration or that they told you why.
I hate to say this but you were probably an unfortunate bait for a labor certification of an existing employee on an h1b visa.
That is generally the only reason companies will stick to the bscs requirement. Normally if you have requisite experience the degree - especially bscs is not needed.
Maybe at software companies, but if you're looking for corporate IT jobs (which can be pretty cush, referring back to the thread about that), a degree or sometimes even a masters is a requirement.
When I was a middle-manager in Bank IT, I would fight with HR about it, but they still used to filter out people without degrees or the "right" degrees.
I had a reverse filter - there was no point bringing someone with a CS degree in, they'd be bored to death in three months; but for people coming from helpdesk/tech support it was a huge step up in their careers/salary and they were fine with the "writing/supporting boring CRUD apps for 40 hours a week" trade-off.
I can't speak to other industries, but many of the companies that I've worked for the last two decades as a software engineer required or at the very least strongly recommended a BS in computer science.
Eh, there is plenty of h1b nonsense, but asking for a degree is hardly unusual.
Just like quizzing people about sorting algorithms. People love to imagine the core of their job is difficult, intellectual problems that need super-smart people - so they don't have to admit the main challenge is maintaining motivation in the face of corporate BS like SOC2.
Asking about a degree isn't the same as requiring one for the role.
Every employer will ask, but at this point for software devs, it's only ever used as an excuse to disqualify someone for other reasons (e.g. h1b stuff) if they don't have it.
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Hate to say it, but this is why I'm incredibly glad I didn't drop out of college even though I had a solid gig ready to go.
I knew I wasn't cut out for being an perpetual founder and that I'd definitely encounter greater challenges not having a degree than the challenges standing between me and my degree at that point in time. ($7k and 1 year of my life with classes I wasn't sure I could stomach).
Wish you the best, but for those considering this always assume you maybe aren't the best - think about what comforts you're giving up. I will say, anyone you talk to on the college / dropout risk/reward problem are highly biased. Dropouts who have achieved success are susceptible to survivorship bias and will vehemently tell you college isn't necessary. PHD's will always espouse college as the only route because they burned their entire 20's in college.
I completed my BSCS at a state school in my 30s after already being a freelance/amateur programmer for many years. I can honestly say I did not learn a single new thing about programming. In fact, almost every single bit of the programming I learned was completely wrong by todays standards, and rife with mistakes.
Sounds like you attended a bad school. I earned a MS in CS at age 30 atop my BS in zoology and 6 years of work as a programmer. My MSCS program introduced me to many new and useful concepts and techniques that have informed all the nontrivial computing tasks I've undertaken since, now 33 years. That degree has proved to be the best investment of my life, by a large margin.
It certainly wouldn't be a program that I would recommend to anyone that wanted to actually learn how to program.
Why are you comparing a BS program to an MS program?
I would argue that it's not necessarily the job of a computer science degree to teach you programming, which is more about the craftsmanship and likely should be practiced and learned individually. Computer science is about the theoretics. I greatly value the CS education I received in linear algebra, discrete mathematics, etc. which I decidedly would not have learned on the job.
If you just want to learn programming you may as well just enroll in a code camp.
There were some decent courses that I got something out of, mostly business-related courses. Even those seemed pretty outdated, though.
If I was spending my own money on a 4-year degree in Computer Science with a focus on Software Development, I would certainly expect to come out of it with some sort of foundation of proper development.
Yeah, that's a bummer. Statistically speaking you're better off finishing it if you want to maximize the number of places that would be willing to hire you. That said, it can also work in your favor not to finish since it might weed out companies you wouldn't want to work for anyway. I'll say anecdotally of the half dozen or so places I've worked and been involved in hiring software developers--a college degree would only be relevant if you had no other experience to speak of. When I look at a resume I'm looking for "stuff this person has done". Even for entry level, I'd rather talk about a hobby project they spent some legitimate time on that whatever a candidate did in college.
Larger places tend to have blanket requirements in part to protect themselves from hiring lawsuits, discrimination, etc.
I look at education when I hire but I’m more interested in experience and I never use a degree as a requirement. I am probably more likely to have the recruiter put the candidate into the pipeline if they have a CS degree but don’t have much experience or experience that doesn’t seem 100% relevant. But that’s not super common.
Whatever your opinion may be, degrees are often seen as a heuristic for "can complete a long, hefty commitment".
Check out uopeople.edu. you should be able to transfer most of credits and finish it off in your own time. If nothing else, to not have these stupid questions from hr
Over here in Germany they have well-established apprenticeship programs for many more jobs than in the US. There are apprenticeships for software developers, for bankers, for "Bürokauffrau/Bürokaufmanm" (office clerks/administrators), for media work, for all sorts of medical jobs, and so on. You name it, and there is probably an "Ausbildung" (apprenticeship) for it here. The apprenticeship programs are still somewhat not as "prestigious" as going to university, but they will get you in the door at a company for that job.
Many people even combine the two, opting to do an apprenticeship and follow it up with studies, or vice-versa, or do both at the same time.
I wish we would try to bring the german apprenticeship program back to its former glory. It's such a shame that we started expecting university degrees for more and more jobs just to appear more compatible with the international job market.
The german apprenticeship program was a fantastic (and unique) feature of the german economy. Not every job needs a bachelors degree. Quite the opposite actually. Many positions that hire fresh university graduates could fill the position much better with well trained people who already have lots of hands on experience. Instead we have tons of people with bachelors degrees that basically need to be trained from scratch because the education they got was waaayy too theoretical.
Unfortunately the apprenticeship program is now far less prestigious than a bachelors degree (which is also heavily reflected in pay). So anyone who can go to university won't choose an apprenticeship.
Such a wasted opportunity.
And there's even the combination of apprenticeship and university with the "Duale Hochschule". You spend alternating 3 months working for a company and 3 months studying at university. After 3 years, you earned a bachelor's degree and have 18 months of work experience.
I wonder why the US doesn't seem to have such a system. The process is quite easy: The company pays the tuition fees and selects a person that satisfies their requirements (not necessarily good grades). The person works for the company and studies while being paid consistently a low but fair salary. About three years later the company can decide if they want to keep the employee who just earned a bachelors degree.
There a few down-sides (studying is harder and it is not available for all study paths), but in general there are many up-sides:
- no debt
- selection based on more than grades
- nobody cares how much you parents can pay
- deeper experience than internships
- combination of practical experience and academic degree
To add some anecdotal evidence: AFAIK, the current CEO of SAP started his career with a similar program.
Same here in Switzerland. Apprenticeships are called “Erstausbildung” (First education) now. It’s regarded as a stepping stone.
Software developers also don’t make that much in Germany. You also need to get past the apprenticeship gatekeepers. No thanks.
One thing these articles usually fail to mention is the fact that college/university is also a huge social experience.
I'm a young person who took an apprenticeship instead of going to university - only one of my high school friends did the same as me, literally everybody else went onto university. I'm from a small town, there's not much going on and apart from when all my friends come back at Christmas and those few weeks in the summer I'm not doing much of anything other than work and sitting on my computer. I imagine if I grew up in a city this would be completely different but there's not much opportunity to make friends of my age around here and I really really really wish I had gone to university just so I wouldn't be so damn lonely, even if learning on the job works better for me.
(oh and the fact that most companies don't recognise the qualification I do have, makes it pretty much useless)
Other social experiences that you pay a lot for include country clubs and Scientology.
I must admit this was very useful for me, too. Not just for making friends, but living semi-on-your-own, having some familiar but mostly new faces, and the excitement of certain activities.
Since you didn’t choose that road, don’t beat yourself up, but make friends in other ways. Do you have meetups nearby? Attend them if so. If not, create them and see who might want to attend. Even advertise at a nearby community college or other means if possible.
There are probably cheaper ways to make friends.
Good. Needs to happen. Was talking to our HVAC repair dude. He makes as much as I do with a high school education and two years of trade school. Adjusting for age, he definitely makes more than I did at 34.
No reason to send kids who want to work with their hands to four year colleges and saddle them with 100k in debt when they can work through a trade school, be done at 20, and have no student loan debt.
I assume you work in software.
How hard does the HVAC guy work? I wager if you compared wages earned per hour worked (not just employed), you come out ahead. You probably beat doctors and lawyers, too.
Large salaries mean nothing if you don’t account for how much effort is expended to earn the money.
Yeah I had nurse friends who had impressive pay on paper, but we’re desperate to work in anything else because the shifts were hellish.
I don’t understand the hours expected of healthcare professionals in the USA. It sounds like madness and a definite route to burnout.
Why don’t the professional organizations and other groups mandate serious reform for this? Have more reasonable max hour stretches, etc. Are the difficulty of hospital handoffs primarily the source for the awful hours demanded?
It especially seemed dumb at the beginning of COVID when one region's hospital would get slammed and already have been operating at the edge of burnout before half the staff was out sick and the amount of work tripled.
Isn't it ironic that healthcare professionals have such unhealthy work?
I.e., pay to quality of life at work ratio (which includes volatility of pay).
This is always the answer to the question “why can’t we find workers for x job”.
College was by and large killed when politics confused the correlation with higher income for cause. We've since wasted a lot of time and money "educating" people who didn't want and couldn't profit from college, and in the process muddied standards so as to pretend they actually belonged. At this point college has been watered down to a huge waste of time and money.
The market and society are beginning to correct and that's a very good thing.
A few posts in this thread talk about the signaling value of college and I wanted to share a thought on that.
When's the last time you saw someone wear a suit? For me, most people I see in suits now days are town car drivers. Because that's who needs to signal something (reliability?) to me in a low context environment.
People stopped wearing suits at work, even for interviews, because the signaling value of a suit is zero. I've read your LinkedIn way before I met you. If you are hot shit, I already know that. If you are not, the suit isn't going to change that.
Likewise, back in the day the fact that you had a degree and what school that degree was from, was a huge signal - often the sole signal you can get on someone prior to meeting them or considering them for a job.
Nowadays that's just not the case. Between credible certifications, blogs, gihub portfolios, open source projects, etc - I can get a TON of signal on you that would be more valuable than your college background.
To be fair not everyone thinks this way but I think that's a point in time thing. The signal is there and getting stronger, it's only matter of time before it's recognized more broadly.
And to the point, if you apprenticed in your field and had good results, people will selfishly value that more in hiring than you having gone to some woke school.
> People stopped wearing suits at work, even for interviews, because the signaling value of a suit is zero.
In fact it's become an anti-signal in software; people look at you funny. I actually failed an interview once because I wore a suit.
Yeah, outside of finance, it would seem like it's the opposite, signaling lower status and conformity.
Nowadays that's just not the case. Between credible certifications, blogs, gihub portfolios, open source projects, etc - I can get a TON of signal on you that would be more valuable than your college background.
But this is just a tiny subset of jobs though.
There are some industries where suits are still regularly worn, though even in these fields (law, banking) it is less common than before. In Silicon Valley, lawyers only wear suits when going to court or to depositions.
I wish it were easier to get a visa and move to another country without a degree. As someone without a degree, that's been the most annoying issue.
The best parts are: not having student loans and not having a mindset that grinding within "the system" leads to success.
I did my Master's degree solely for visa. Nothing else.
What little I learned in Master's, I could have learned from online MIT/GaTech/Michigan/Stanford courses with much more flexibility, and for free. And a lot better quality, too.
All the "network" I built that was of any value to me was made in mailing lists, Twitter, Google Groups, and later Discord.
Haha, I did the same.
I've found like a week or so before deadline on applying to master's program that master's can make
getting visa easier and I've decided that spending every 2nd weekend at school for 1.5 year may be worth it
Unfortunately majority of the courses were just waste of time :(
But where are you, where would you like to move to?
I'm in the US and sadly most places require at least a bachelor's degree to get enough "points" for almost any visa.
I went to undergrad in India so YMMV for the primarily North American population here.
A lot of people look back at college fondly, but to me it just felt like a lot of time and money spent for skills that I had to acquire on my own any way.
It was a common opinion among my friends that other non STEM majors seemed to have an easier undergrad life where they could find time to explore things rather than trying to build their profile for the cutthroat competition in the Indian tech industry.
It felt very wasteful to spend hours on all that theoretical knowledge and the Leetcode rat race while knowing they will heavily atrophy from lack of use the moment you get your first job. It left you wondering if it was worth it in the end.
I spent 4 years getting a Computer Engineering degree (in the US), and learned nothing that I didn't already know. Also, they didn't even bother to teach us the most important aspect of computer engineering (signal integrity......)
well what would your job prospects have been with a non-STEM degree?
Once again, keep in mind that this is an Indian perspective. YMMV for North America.
Sure you will make more money than them on your first job. But how many of us are able to enjoy that money to the fullest extent?
You will most likely end up being forced to work in a "Tech Hub" city like Bangalore (the American equivalent would be San Francisco and similar)
All those zeros in your salary end up going into sky high rent and housing prices. Saying nothing about the traffic, poor infrastructure and pollution that you'll have to suffer from anyway.
Looking at my childhood neighbours from smaller cities who are drivers/secretaries/carpenters, they may be going on fewer expensive vacations, but they are still able to afford a decent quality of life with way lesser stress. This is hard to quantify, but you don't have to ask me who I would bet on to suffer from High Blood pressure, Heart issues, etc earlier on.
EDIT: Some folks may mention remote work may alleviate these issues, but companies seem hell bent on dragging their employees back into the expensive hell holes their offices are based in with Weak sauce Hybrid work that gives you none of the benefits of remote work.
As a millennial, the advice we often received was "just go to college, it'll almost always be worth it." Now, the advice I give to those younger is "go to college but only once you know what you're trying to get out of it." While colleges can let you explore subjects that you're interested in, they don't do much to help you explore careers you might be interested in.
Paying for a degree before you know roughly how you want to use it costs you time and money. I'd say 3 out of 4 people in my peer group graduated college without a clear idea of what to do next, which delayed many of them several years in starting their career.
About half of those 3/4s bumbled through different fields trying to find something that clicked, and some ultimately went back to school for a different, more specific career. The other half let inertia win and started grad school immediately, though many of those ultimately dropped out anyway. Even of those who stuck with grad school, few have landed anything stable even 10 years later.
However, those in the 1 out of 4 with a dedicated end goal (engineer, doctor, professor, etc.) have fared much better.
> go to college but only once you know what you're trying to get out of it.
Unfortunately by the time you figure that out, they don’t want seem to want you.
> Today, colleges and universities enroll about 15 million undergraduate students, while companies employ about 800,000 apprentices. In the past decade, college enrollment has declined by about 15%, while the number of apprentices has increased by more than 50%, according to federal data and Robert Lerman, a labor economist at the Urban Institute and co-founder of Apprenticeships for America.
So in the last decade:
Edit: Looking at these rough numbers, there are 2.2 million people unaccounted for, far more than increased the ranks of Apprentices. Where did they go if not into Apprenticeships?
Apprentices Undergraduates 2013 400,000 ~17,600,000 2023 ~800,000 15,000,000
Demographic shift? There could have been (probably was) larger number of 18-24 year olds ten year than today.
Definitely the demographics:
I would hate to be fighting to join academia right now in a world where there's a solid chance the student body is shrinking:
First of all, I'm optimistic about this. Apprenticeships could even trickle up. Here's what I mean. The article talks about an apprenticeship in the insurance industry where you're taking college classes while working a day job. This could expand into other areas, such as junior engineers / designers / programmers. It might not replace college, but turn college into something that blends with job training in a more explicit way, so that it's not an either-or choice.
But I'm wary because we don't know the breadth of what these apprenticeships actually look like, the long term prospects of the people who go through them, or the attrition rate. Remember the private for-profit college scandals. College graduates have been studied to death, but has the same scrutiny been applied to the trades?
Insurance is the only profession I know of where there are many senior leaders in their forties without a degree.
Traditionally, how did they get in? Did they come up through sales, or through family businesses?
There are multiple paths and different designations you need to earn to work them. The more letters you can get after your name, the better. So you don't need a degree, but there is a moat to cross.
Agencies: oops, all sales!
Claims Adjustment: small claims to bigger claims. These are usually independent outfits that service many carriers for their geographic area. In some jurisdictions you can get hired with no experience but you will earn more if you have any kind of background in accounting or appraisal.
Quote & Bind | CSR >> assistant underwriter >> underwriter >> sr. underwriter. These are your big corpo jobs at an operations center.
Perhaps this is true in the US, but I don't think it is true in the Lloyds market. Which is ultimately where large chunks of the US risk ends up. The US state level control of insurance does create substantial opportunities for regulatory capture by licensure.
In the UK it is not formally an apprentice system but from the outside it looks a lot like an apprentice system combined with luck. While graduate entry is common now (since our University system is only £10k a year for tuition and the money can be borrowed from the state) Lloyd's still runs an apprentice program that has an intake at 18.
Junior people joining the industry will typically be given a great deal of grunt work to do and there can be opportunities to learn the lingo that come with that. Relationships are a large part of the industry and so passing these on from parent to child does happen but a lot of it appears to me to be less direct than that, and so ending up in an apprentice-like relationship with a senior underwriter can cause your career to soar.
It can be very hard for senior underwriters who feel that they have built up high quality relationships over decades to work out how to profit from those in retirement and many fail to fully capitalise on them.
Relevant book: The Case Against Education https://www.amazon.com/Case-against-Education-System-Waste/d...
Written by an economics professor, this book argues that much of the value of education is signaling, and that we greatly over-school many kids.
I just took 2 years of a redneck tech school (EET technician trade school).
Didn't have much choice. I'd pretty much trashed my life, by the time I was 18, and needed to rebuild it, with limited resources.
Turned out to have worked out well, for me; although the school, itself, is now long gone. It was basically one of those wrench academies that popped up, after Vietnam, to suckle from the teat of the GI Bill (many of my classmates were Vietnam vets. The GI Bill was awesome).
The main thing that it taught me, was professionalism and self-discipline. It was also pretty current, for the tech (colleges tend to be a lot farther behind; at least in undergraduate).
But I had to do a great deal of personal bootstrapping, after that, to do OK.
College made sense for a very long time because a lot of books were hard to come by for regular folk, and the cost was reasonable.
They were great places for young adults to complete the transition to “adult”, to experiment and figure how who they want to be.
These days the costs seem to far outstrip the benefits, and the Internet makes so much more accessible at a young age.
Parents and kids are finding it hard to justify hundreds of thousands of dollars just to “figure things out”, as we used to.
As someone who racked up nearly $80K in debt going to art school, I think they're making the right choice (mostly). In some cases it really makes sense to go to college, but it's a terrible model for many skills.
With there being a huge shortage in trades and other roles where they'll provide an apprenticeship, versus credential inflation and jobs requiring a bachelor's just for entry level positions, it makes sense to go where you're valued as a worker and be catered to instead of having your originated student loans extracted from you for simply a chance at a white collar job.
Many trades will be much more protected against AI gains as well
Indeed! LLMs ain't gonna be performing electrical, plumbing, earthwork, welding, or carpentry anytime soon. If anything, its going to flush out the bullshit jobs while the economy is in a position to reward those performing higher value work.
I agree but according to the BLS employment numbers are as follows in the US:
Earthwork: Don't see an exact match
Software Devs, QA, & Testing: 1.62m
Not sure how they differentiate between devs & programmers but even if we just take the 1.62m figure it is well over half the total employment in those trades. If software devs get 75-90% replaced (I don't think it'll be this bad and for my own sake as an early career dev I really hope not but I don't see it as impossible) I imagine most white collar jobs are coming with us. Will the trades pay as well when a ton of people are looking to reskill into something that still exists?
This assumes there will be people that can afford to pay them for their work...
Did you have fun though? Because imho, that’s part of the point.
The point is to get an education that can be used to get into more valuable areas of employment. $80k is a lot to spend on fun when fun can be found for free
You’re doing both, that’s the point. Too many folks on hacker news see everything in black and white.
I fear that you aren't understanding what college is about
I made a lot of great memories, but I also would have made a lot of great memories in a different environment that didn't saddle me with a ton of debt. I do believe that having an extended period of time away from the "real world", where you can learn and figure things out, is useful. But (a) I don't think it's only applicable to young people, and (b) with just a little ingenuity you could replicate those same conditions for faarrrr cheaper.
There's more fun to be had with 80k than college.
Youre really asking for examples?
- couple years off traveling the world all expenses paid
- buying a small lake cabin near family and friends, or down payment on a very nice place.
- 10 years of international, three-week vacations
- retiring 10 years early because over 40 years that'll be almost 1.3 million.
- you could get the college experience but for twice as long by not paying for classes
- take less expensive classes, live at home, and work more, and end up with much less debt, then spend 80k on your first house down payment.
Im not trying very hard, but I had way more fun after college than in it, it seems obvious that there might be better ways to have fun with 80k, that's all. Maybe I'm wrong.
You dont pay 80k to have fun. And if you do then you can do a hell of a lot better than art school.
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Maybe so, but then you have the un-fun of being $80K in debt and trying to pay it back on jobs you can get with an arts degree.
Maybe there's more efficient ways of having fun.
Not to be rude or unsypathetic, but did you think that spending $80K was going to turn you into an artist?
I was a very good artist, and when I was 18 I genuinely believed that college would turn me into a professional artist. I'm not saying this to brag, but I did have a level of talent that I could have turned into a career. So it wasn't a crazy idea at the time.
What I found, however, was that the education I received wasn't what I wanted or needed. In my senior year we were still being taught things that I had known since I was a teenager. But by the time I realized how much of a mistake it was, I felt it wouldn't have made sense to quit, because having a degree with 80K in debt is better than having no degree with 60K in debt.
Yeah, for people who are talented the education portion of university is generally a waste of time at this point. University caters to people who are complete novices when they start the degree.
Just because the person did not have a successful art career doesn't mean they aren't and artist and didn't become a better one.
of course, anyone can be an artist (or not). my point is that you don't have to spend $80K to potentially fail in becoming one.
interesting to see that talent might beat out education is no longer an idea here
Talent beating out education is OBVIOUSLY still an idea here, you're just asking disingenuous, leading questions.
Is $80k on its own supposed to turn a non-artist into an artist? No, nobody is saying that. You need to be talented to get admitted in the first place.
Would $80k lead to lessons, connections, and experiences that could make an artist's career more successful? Quite possibly. Or not. It's a risky investment: you pay a lot, and maybe it pays off, maybe you break even, maybe you end up behind.
I'm not defending the >$80k price tag of art school. I'm saying that it's not irrational for a budding artist to see it as worth the gamble.
college isn’t quite equivalent to trade school, it wasn’t really about getting a degree in a career field until it became so outrageously expensive that you needed to constantly consider how you’d pay it back
my point was that "art", while certainly a viable career should you have talent, cannot be taught.
a bit like programming, or anything else, when i come to think of it...
"Cannot be taught" is a pretty strong claim. I'm not an artist but it is my understanding that at least some forms of art (classical, sculpting) require at least some degree of instruction, and being in school is probably going to provide easier access to resources like models. A quick google search with artists I'm familiar with (Michelangelo, Caravaggio, da Vinci) confirms all were apprenticed to other artists.
Anecdotally I think my programming skills also benefited from a formal education, though there are without a doubt many self-taught developers who far exceed my skill.
If it can't be taught, then the same must be true of many other professions. You need to have a drive for it, sure. And in some sense, quality is more subjective than in other fields. But just because it's more subjective doesn't mean it's entirely subjective - there's a baseline level of knowledge that you really need to know, and that can be taught.
most of the greatest masters were taught art from childhood, it’s not magic
most of the great masters children did not become great artists
the outcome of their kids doesn’t change the fact that most of them were taught and raised as artists
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Lately I have worked with many junior / mid level guys who studied CS in college. Meaning they graduated at some point in the last 3 to 5 years. All of them struggle with basic communication and tasks that involve working with other humans. It's like they spent all those years in some cave with no exposure whatsoever to the real world.
I get that the goal of a CS degree is not to prepare you for the software industry, but it's the main goal of most CS students. I can see why college degrees are not as attractive as they used to.
I can say the same for those in humanities and the opposite for those in CS, anecdotally. The thing about CS is it has a clearly defined path that kids can prepare for. Expectations and conventions are known ahead of time and can be studied and learned (leetcode, code review, requirements gathering, sprint planning, etc.) A history major has no idea what conventions they will need to be ready for in the work force.
General communication and writing skills aren't unique to the humanities.
Would you be willing to elaborate on what you've seen a bit? I'm on the last semester of my CS degree now and have definitely seen a lot of similar effects as a result of Zoom courses and general isolation during COVID lockdowns. There's generally less willingness to reach out to people than there used to be, and people seem to prefer dividing up tasks and working independently over collaborative work (e.g. each person in a group project having a "role" rather than working jointly on a large segment). There's also a general preference towards working at home without any external interaction whatsoever and a lack of willingness to form study groups. As I start moving into the job application phase of things, I can definitely see how these traits can be seen as off-putting to hiring managers, and I'd like to avoid falling into similar traps. Is there anything else you've noticed that would be worth avoiding?
California Universities just had the most applications in history. UCLA 145k applicants, UCSD 130k applicants. Respectively they are both down now to about a 3% and 5% acceptance rate due to the spike. Might be Covid holdovers due to a gap year, or with the economy as it is, out of state applications have dropped.
Four-year universities haven't seen much of an enrollment decline, especially not more prestigious ones like the UC system. Here is some data breaking down enrollment numbers 2017-2022 by type of institution and type of degree sought: https://nscresearchcenter.org/current-term-enrollment-estima...
Percentage changes in undergraduate enrollment over that 5-year period were:
Seeking a bachelor's (4-yr) degree: -6% Seeking an associate's (2-yr) degree: -21% Other undergraduate students: -8%
If students are more likely to apply to multiple schools than before (I believe that to be the case as competition has increased. I also have multiple cousins currently applying to UCs, anecdotal) than the total number of applications would appear to increase while total unique applicants may be steady or reduced.
That is a great point. And the UC system does have a central database. It would be nice to see total uniques per school out of transparency, as you can apply to all the UC’s much easier.
This does have an adverse effect, as relatives of mine got multiple offers and others rejected or waitlisted. Not sure what the best path is, as the top 5% probably got accepted to all, at least what I am seeing from my network. Then others are left to wait for the top 5% to choose; sometimes a month. By then, most non top 5% have to make a decision elsewhere. I am sure the UC System has it all worked out, just seems it could be done better.
My daughter got rejected from one of the UC. They received 130+k application for 6k openings.
The acceptance ratio is a poor measure, because applying to multiple schools is easy. Likewise, I first remember skyrocketing ratios of applicants to job openings when laser printers became ubiquitous.
In between college versus apprenticeship, students could apply for both and then pick the one that seems like the best deal.
Yeah, the UC's application system is a bit ... disingenuous is the wrong word, but it's a win-win for applicants and colleges: all the applicant has to do is check all the boxes and pay the not-terrible application fees and bam, they've applied to all the schools. This pretty much forces all the students to apply to most, if not all, of the campuses. Which gives every UC campus the maximum possible applicant pool.
Unless evaluating the applications is centralized, I'm not sure it's a great win for schools.
As someone who has been on the conference committee for quite a few events, I often think that having some friction or even strict limits to submitting a proposal isn't the worst thing in the world. In theory, you want the widest possible pool. In practice, each proposal/application takes some time to evaluate and, especially given conferences obviously don't have quantitative filters like GPA or SAT, picking the best 50 sessions out of a few hundred is generally a lot less random than picking the best 50 out of 2,000.
Someone in this thread wrote this:
"California Universities just had the most applications in history. UCLA 145k applicants, UCSD 130k applicants. Respectively they are both down now to about a 3% and 5% acceptance rate due to the spike. Might be Covid holdovers due to a gap year, or with the economy as it is, out of state applications have dropped."
If it's true, that's crazy. Up until this year, I think the lowest acceptance rate was Princeton at 3.9%.
I'll guess ether Berkeley or UCLA? That's why you apply to more than one.
Even the Cal States aren't bad schools, you can get a quality education at a fraction of the price.
YIMBYism in California has been and will continue to be about expanding the schools (and not just building new ones in bumbfuck) a lot.
I didn't go to college, nor did a few of my best friends - we all work in tech/IT. Careers spanning development to sales and IT. We make good income, have little if any debt, and all own homes. Compare us to some of our peers from high school who went to college, many still live at home and have some pretty typical Fortune 500 paper pusher jobs. I think what set us apart was our general interest in nerdy/tech things from a young age. We built computers, modded video games, learned to code, worked on cars, etc. We all came from very low to middle class backgrounds too. Didn't have parents uber concerned about their legacy and if their kid was going to be a "loser" or not. Ironically, most of us made more $$ than those parents by our mid to late 20s.
Father of 5 (graduated) FL k-12 kids here. FL schools needed some things more than others.
- To reflect the actual economic reality of most FL kids, high schools needed less 4yr college prep and more trade/job prep. Being ready for years of employment is better than being ready for years of impossible or debt-laden college.
- A school year that ends on Halloween and begins after the new year. Kids are better off in A/C during our 13 month summers and outside during our 15min of not-summer (when all the holidays are going on).
- High schools that start after Elementary and Middle - to allow needed sleep (a FL rep just intro'd a bill for this!)
Instead FL kids got leveraged into a culture war that they never asked for - all so Gov can select parent rights.
I've been saying this for almost 15 years now. Industries like Software Development need to abandon college and return to the guild system. Start as an apprentice, move to journeyman, become a master, and eventually an artisan. All the time training your juniors. I'm not saying there is no place for college but it needs to relegated to the jobs that need it, doctors, lawyers, etc.
Probably a good thing! Four year degrees are oversubscribed and have been a low ROI for many students (the “please cancel student debt” crowd).
I'm wondering how many parents are reading this in the WSJ, and thinking something like: "That's great that those people are looking at paths other than college. Of course, my kids are going to college, for the college lifestyle experience, the networking, the pedigree, and the opportunities that will open up to them, in their rightful class."
I dont think you're looking at the crux of the problem. The real question is, how many people are hoping they're kids pay 40k/year for a humanities degree?
Of course college isnt devoid of all value and people want the best for their kids. Of course.
Being a plumber, for example, is far more lucrative for most people. Military, police, then lawyer route is also very lucrative.
If the software eng market gets really really bad I might just become a licensed electrician and manage 4-5 electricians. I could remember enough of the 40% of an EE degree I finished before pivotting to CS.
Another option is getting some BS real estate certs and building some kind of middle-man operation where I facilitate / officiate sales of high end homes to rich people who can't view something before they buy (more common than you'd think).
> I might just become a licensed electrician
Depending on state, it can take several years to become licensed. I recommend starting sooner vs later, even if only part time.
I looked into this myself (not in US) - all paths seemed to require full time apprenticeship..
One of those is not like the other in that it requires extensive college. It also happens to be the one that pays more than the others.
Being a high-end plumber doesn't take much college.
I joke, but most lawyers actually don't make a ton of money. Like programming, the profession is very bimodal. By the time you get out of law school, unless that law school is a big name like Harvard or you get a good clerkship or associate job, you will be heading for a career that tops out at $200k/year if you don't burn out in the mean time.
Plumbing, electrical work, and other trade work is weirdly lucrative and doesn't come with nearly as much "ladder climbing" as a legal career. Also, a mid-career trade worker can specialize (taking only very lucrative and weird jobs) or start to manage other tradespeople. Plumbing and the other trades are a lot like software engineering in that sense, and the reward for being the plumber who knows how to deal with water pumps in high-rises is similar to the reward for being the software engineer who can program GPUs (or some other niche skill). For example, I happen to have met one of the people who does the HVAC in Google NYC, and he makes the same amount as a senior SWE at Google.
NYC commercial plumbers make a lot of money and it is also one of the hardest jobs (apprenticeship) to get in the world.
Weirdly lucrative? Not weird at all. These professions are the backbone of society.
The trades can be excellent careers, but it doesn’t do anyone any good to pretend that they’re an ideal path for most people.
You’ll be constantly working with people making poor life decisions that look like a lot of fun, and being encouraged to join in.
People with self-control issues or trouble resisting peer pressure are going to have a lot of trouble succeeding. They’ll have very little help.
In college, you will also be constantly surrounded by people making poor life decisions that look fun and being encouraged to join in. That also happens at most law firms, on Wall Street, and at many startups.
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Entry level police jobs pay better than a lot of lawyer jobs, with a lot less debt.
If you start out early enough, you can be retired from law enforcement with pension earlier than you think (typically 20 years) which is actually a perfect time for you to go get a law degree.
Why is the age of 41 (assuming you became a police officer after college) a good time to get a law degree?
I think he means enlisting in the military or a police force, accruing that job experience, rather than getting an undergrad degree, and then going straight to law school.
A key facet seems to be missing from the threads here. Most Americans can't afford a 4-year college.
Our (until recently, inexpensive) metro market requires 3-4 typical incomes to meet basic expenses. The cost of a 4-year college simply isn't available for most folks.
Can Americans still go to university free in other countries like Germany? Why don’t more students go to school abroad for cheaper? I’m sure it is not so simple, but I still think it is worth getting the paper just to get past HR.
It depends on the job/career the person is going for.
Some jobs; doctors, lawyers, psychologists… would need a book based education that can’t be taught in an apprenticeship or by just hand-on training.
Other jobs like carpenter and plumbers and mechanics, people could probably learn most stuff by just hands on experience, going out and doing things and figuring out how to do it better, but would need an apprenticeship to learn how to deal with meeting building and safety codes based on where they live.
I’m I network engineer for a global company, and I credit all of my knowledge to simple hands on experience and google. I learned a lot about networks just from my time in the military, used that to get civilian jobs that were more complicated and I had more to learn, and when ever I hit a point I couldn’t get past, I’d ask someone or ask google, OR just keep smacking my head into that wall until I figured it out. My B.S. degree in computer science is more of just that… bs, then the hands on experience I gained over the past 20+ years.
I believe it’s a good thing this shift towards apprenticeships, we don’t really need so many university graduates (I’m talking from an Spanish point of view).
More and more the university is degrading its own nature, focusing on preparing “workers” instead of cultivating the arts of knowledge: research, philosophy, history…
It is good that people from university goes to the private sectors, but we are doing it the wrong way, we do not need CS to go develop for Funny Startup, we need developers (technical apprentships) and probably some software architects (CS) that focus on how it should be done.
Private sector is pushing universities toward work training and we are falling back in advances and knowledge. The fine art of learn to learn, the place where people that love the field go instead than the people that searches for a job and money.
people learning trades under an apprenticeship can start earning real money at 19
which means they can make other adult decisions not long after
they're not only out-earning many college graduates, they are getting four+ years of earning and investing
It's probably not a a popular opinion but I think my formal CS training in University mean a lot for what I know and what I do as a software engineer. Not having that formal education would mean a lot to of holes in my knowledge and being less able to understand and derive relationships between lots of concepts.
You can learn from books, from articles, from tutorials, from MOOCS, from boot camps, from apprenticeships but my conjecture is that is not enough. You will miss a more ample view of the field and lots of concepts.
And going through a formal education doesn't mean you don't have access to alternative education. Beside my CS degree program I've learned from as many sources as I could.
Nah, not a fan of the trades, sorry.
Worse job prospects, lower wages, and also debt too. People think trades are cheaper. They are not. You incur a cost because of training, and also opportunity cost from not finding work as easily, and time spent training, which may be unpaid. And then lower wages. You are better off with a generic 4-year degree from a mid-ranking school than trades, imho. Student loan debt has way more payment options, lower interest rates, and forgiveness compared to trades debt.
I'm assuming you are able to graduate from college. Dropouts would generally be better off going into the trades.
There's a large caveat towards the end of the article:
“People get more specific skills in apprenticeship programs than they do in college and while that helps them enter the labor market with greater ease at the beginning of their careers, later in life their skills depreciate”
“So at age 45 or 50 or 55, these people are less likely to stay in the labor market because their skills are less valuable.”
By contrast, a college degree offers a broader, general education, which “makes people more adaptable and able to learn new skills that show up later when the economy changes,” he said.